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Containing  two  new  chapters:  IDEOLOGY  AND  TERROR 


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The  Origins  of 


The  Origins  of 
T otalitarianism 


Meridian  Books 


Cleveland  and  New  York 


Published  by  The  World  Publishing  Company 
2231  W est  110th  Street , Cleveland  2,  Ohio 
First  Meridian  printing  September  1958 
Seventh  printing  September  1962 

Copyright  © 1951  by  Hannah  Arendt;  second  enlarged  edition 
copyright  © 1958  by  Hannah  Arendt 

All  rights  reserved.  No  part  of  this  book  may  be  reproduced 
in  any  form  without  written  permission  from  the  publisher , 
except  for  brief  passages  included  in  a review  appearing  in 
a newspaper  or  magazine. 

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Weder  dem  Vcrgangenen  anheim fallen  noch 
dem  Zukunfligen . Es  kommt  darauf  an , ganz 
gegemvartig  zu  sein.  KARL  JASPERS 

Preface  to  the  First  Edition 

Two  world  wars  in  one  generation,  separated  by  an  uninterrupted 
chain  of  local  wars  and  revolutions,  followed  by  no  peace  treaty  for  the 
vanquished  and  no  respite  for  the  victor,  have  ended  in  the  anticipation  of 
a third  World  War  between  the  two  remaining  world  powers.  This  moment 
of  anticipation  is  like  the  calm  that  settles  after  all  hopes  have  died.  We 
no  longer  hope  for  an  eventual  restoration  of  the  old  world  order  with 
all  its  traditions,  or  for  the  reintegration  of  the  masses  of  Five  continents 

who  have  been  thrown  into  a chaos  produced  by  the  violence  of  wars 

and  revolutions  and  the  growing  decay  of  all  that  has  still  been  spared. 
Under  the  most  diverse  conditions  and  disparate  circumstances,  we  watch 
the  development  of  the  same  phenomena — homelessness  on  an  unprece- 
dented scale,  rootlessness  to  an  unprecedented  depth. 

Never  has  our  future  been  more  unpredictable,  never  have  we  depended 
so  much_on  political  forces  that  cannot  be  trusted  to  follow  the  rules  of 
common  sense  and  self-interest — forces  that  look  like  sheer  insanity,  if 
judged  by  the  standards  of  other  centuries.  It  is  as  though  mankind  had 
diyided_itsel£.  between  those  who  bel ieve_i nhum an_o mnipotence  (who 
thinleJthat  .everything  is  possible  if  one  knows  how  to  organize  masses  for 
it)  and  those  for  whom  powerlessness  has  become  the  major  experience 
of  their  lives. 

On  the  level  of  historical  insight  and  political  thought  there  prevails  an 
ill-defined,  general  agreement  that  the  essential  structure  of  all  civilizations 
is  at  the  breaking  point.  Although  it  may  seem  better  preserved  in  some 
parts  of  the  world  than  in  others,  it  can  nowhere  provide  the  guidance  to 
the  possibilities  of  the  century,  or  an  adequate  response  to  its  horrors.  JDes- 
perateJlop^  and  desperate  fear  often  seem  closer  to  the  center  of  such  events 
than  balanced  judgment  and  measured  insight.  The  central  events  of  our 
time  are  not  less  effectively  forgotten  by  those  committed  to  a belief  in  an 
unavoidable  doom,  than  by  those  who  have  given  themselves  up  to  reckless 

This  book  has  been  written  against  a background  of  both  reckless  opti- 
mism and  reckless  despair.  It  holds  that  Progress  and  Doom  arc  two  sides 
of  the  same  medal;  that  both  are  articles  of  superstition^ not  of  faith.  It  was 



written  out  of  the  conviction  that  it  should  be  possible  to  discover  the 
hidden  mechanics  by  which  all  traditional  elements  of  our  political  and 
spiritual  world  were  dissolved  into  a conglomeration  where  everything 
seems  to  have  lost  specific  value,  and  has  become  unrecognizable  for  human 
comprehension,  unusable  for  human  purpose.  To  yield  to  the  mere  process 
of  disintegration  has  become  an  irresistible  temptation,  not  only  because 
it  has  assumed  the  spurious  grandeur  of  “historical  necessity,”  but  also 
because  everything  outside  it  has  begun  to  appear  lifeless,  bloodless,  mean- 
ingless, and  unreal. 

The  conviction  that  everything  that  happens  on  earth  must  be  compre- 
hensible to  man  can  leacTto  interpreting  history  by  commonplaces:  Compre- 
hension does  not  mean  denying  the  outrageous,  deducing  the  unprecedented 
from  precedents,  or  explaining  phenomena  by  such  analogies  and  generali- 
ties that  the  impact  of  reality  and  the  shock  of  experience  are  no  longer 
felt.  It  means,  rather,  examining  and  bearing  consciously  the  burden  which 
our  century  has  placed  on  us — neither  denying  its  existence  nor  submitting 
meekly  to  its  weight.  Comprehension,  in  short,  means  the  unpremeditated, 
attentive  facing  up  to,  and  resisting  of,  reality — whatever  it  may  be. 

In  this  sense,  it  must  be  possible  to  face  and  understand  the  outrageous 
fact  that  so  small  (and,  in  world  politics,  so  unimportant)  a phenomenon  as 
the  Jewish  question  and  antisemitism  could  become  the  catalytic  agent  for 
first,  the  Nazi  movement,  then  a world  war,  and  finally  the  establishment 
of  death  factories.  Or,  the  grotesque  disparity  between  cause  and  effect 
which  introduced  the  era  of  imperialism,  when  economic  difficulties  led,  in 
a few  decades,  to  a profound  transformation  of  political  conditions  all  over 
the  world.  Or,  the  curious  contradiction  between  the  totalitarian  movements’ 
avowed  cynical  “realism”  and  their  conspicuous  disdain  of  the  whole  texture 
of  reality.  Or,  the  irritating  incompatibility  between  the  actual  power  of 
"rnodefn'man  (greater  than  ever  before,  great  to  the  point  where  he  might 
challenge  the  very  existence  of  his  own  universe)  and  the  impotence  of 
modern  men  to  live  in,  and  understand  the  sense  of,  a world  which  their 
own  strength  has  established. 

The  totalitarian  attempt  at  global  conquest  and  total  domination  has 
been  the  destructive  way  out  of  all  impasses.  Its  victory  may  coincide 
with  the  destruction  of  humanity;  wherever  it  has  ruled,  it  has  begun  to 
destroy  the  essence  of  man.  Yet  to  turn  our  backs  on  the  destructive  forces 
of  the  century  is  of  little  avail. 

The  trouble  is  that  our  period  has  so  strangely  intertwined  the  good  with 
the  bad  that  without  the  imperialists’"  “expansion  for  expansion’s  sake,”  the 
world  might  never  have  become  one;  without  the  bourgeoisie’s  political 
device  of  “power  for  power’s  sake,”  the  extent  of  human  strength  might 
never  have  been  discovered;  without  the  fictitious  world  of  totalitarian  move- 
ments, in  which  with  unparalleled  clarity  the  essential  uncertainties  of  our 
time  have  been  spelled  out,  we  might  have  been  driven  to  our  doom  with- 
out ever  becoming  aware  of  what  has  been  happening. 

And  if  it  is  true  that  in  the  final  stages  of  totalitarianism  an  absolute  evil 



appears  (absolute  because  it  can  no  longer  be  deduced  from  humanly 
comprehensible  motives),  it  is  also  true  that  without  it  we  might  never 
have  known  the  truly  radical  nature  of  Evil. 

Antisemitism  (not  merely  The~hatred”1&f  Jews),  imperialism  (not  merely 
conquest),  totalitarianism  (not  merely  dictatorship) — one  after  the  other, 
one  more  brutally  than  the  other,  have  demonstrated  that  human  dignity 
needs  a new  guarantee  which  can  be  found  only  in  a new  political  principle, 
in  a new  law  on  earth,  whose  validity  this  time  must  comprehend  the 
whole  of  humanity  while  its  power  must  remain  strictly  limited,  rooted  in 
and  controlled  by  newly  defined  territorial  entities. 

We  can  no  longer  afford  to  take  that  which  was  good  in  the  past  and 
simply  call  it  our  heritage,  to  discard  the  bad  and  simply  think  of  it  as  a 
dead  load  which  by  itself  time  will  bury  in  oblivion.  The  subterranean 
stream  of  Western  history  has  finally  come  to  the  surface  and  usurped  the 
dignity  of  our  tradition.  This  is  the  reality  in  which  we  live.  And  this  is  wby 
all  efforts  to  escape  from  the  grimness  of  the  present  into  nostalgia  for  a still 
intact  past,  or  into  the  anticipated  oblivion  of  a better  future,  are  vain. 

Summer,  1950 

Preface  to  the  Second  Enlarged  Edition 

Since  1951,  when  this  book  first  appeared,  only  one  event  happened 
that  had  a direct  bearing  upon  our  understanding  of  totalitarianism 
and  total  domination  as  a novel  form  of  government.  This  is  not  Stalin’s 
death,  nor  even  the  succession  crisis  in  Russia  and  the  satellite  countries, 
but  the  Hungarian  revolution — the  first  and  yet  unique  instance  of  a 
people’s  uprising  against  total  domination.  At  this  moment,  hardly  two 
years  after  the  uprising,  no  one  can  tell  whether  this  was  only  the  last 
and  most  desperate  flare-up  of  a spirit  which,  since  1789,  has  manifested 
itself  in  the  series  of  European  revolutions,  or  if  it  contains  the  germ  of 
something  new  which  will  have  consequences  of  its  own.  In  either  case,  the 
event  itself  is  important  enough  to  require  re-examination  of  what  we 
know,  or  think  we  know,  about  totalitarianism.  The  reader  will  find  in  this 
new  edition  a last  chapter,  in  the  form  of  an  Epilogue,  where  I have  tried 
to  bring  the  older  story  up  to  date.  However,  the  reader  should  bear  in 
mind  that  developments  of  the  year  1958  have  not  been  taken  into  account, 
with  the  result  that  the  partial  restalinization  in  Soviet  Russia  and  the  satel- 
lite countries  is  hinted  at  as  a strong  probability,  but  not  told  and  analyzed 
as  an  accomplished  fact. 

This  is  not  the  only  addition.  As  sometimes  happens  in  such  matters, 
there  were  certain  insights  of  a more  general  and  theoretical  nature  which 
now  appear  to  me  to  grow  directly  out  of  the  analysis  of  the  elements  of 
total  domination  in  the  third  part  of  the  book,  but  which  1 did  not  possess 
when  I finished  the  original  manuscript  in  1949.  These  are  now  incor- 
porated in  Chapter  XIII,  “Ideology  and  Terror,”  of  the  present  edition 
and  they  replace  the  rather  inconclusive  “Concluding  Remarks”  that  closed 
the  original  edition,  some  of  which,  however,  have  been  shifted  to  other 

These  changes  are  not  revisions.  It  is  true  that  in  the  present  edition, 
even  apart  from  the  two  new  chapters,  Part  III  on  Totalitarianism  and  the 
last  chapters  of  Part  II  on  Imperialism  (dealing  with  such  pretotalitarian 
phenomena  as  statelessness  and  the  transformation  of  parties  into  move- 
ments) are  considerably  enlarged,  while  Part  1 on  Antisemitism  and  the 
chapters  5 to  8 on  Imperialism  have  remained  untouched.  But  the  changes 
are  technical  additions  and  replacements  which  do  not  alter  either  the 
analysis  or  argument  of  the  original  text.  They  were  necessary  because 
so  much  documentary  and  other  source  material  on  the  Hitler  regime 
had  become  accessible  years  after  this  book  was  finished.  Thus  I knew 
the  Nuremberg  documents  only  in  part  and  only  in  English  translations, 
and  many  books,  pamphlets  and  magazines  published  in  Germany  during 



the  war  were  not  available  in  this  country.  Additions  and  replacements, 
therefore,  concern  mainly  quotations  in  text  and  footnotes  where  1 can 
now  use  original  instead  of  secondary  sources. 

However,  what  I tried  to  do  for  source  material,  1 could  not  do  for  the 
huge  literature  of  recent  years  on  Nazi  Germany  and  Soviet  Russia.  Not 
even  all  of  the  more  important  contributions  are  mentioned.  While  I sin- 
cerely regret  this  omission,  I left  out  of  account,  without  regret,  the  rather 
voluminous  literature  of  memoirs  published  by  Nazi  and  other  German 
functionaries  after  the  end  of  the  war.  The  dishonesty  of  this  kind  of  apolo- 
getics is  obvious  and  embarrassing  but  understandable,  whereas  the  lack 
of  comprehension  they  display  of  what  actually  happened,  as  well  as  of  the 
roles  the  authors  themselves  played  in  the  course  of  events,  is  truly  aston- 

For  kind  permission  to  peruse  and  quote  archival  material,  I thank  the 
Hoover  Library  in  Stanford,  California,  the  Centre  de  Documentation 
Juive  in  Paris,  and  the  Yiddish  Scientific  Institute  in  New  York.  Documents 
in  the  Nuremberg  Trials  are  quoted  with  their  Nuremberg  File  Number; 
other  documents  are  referred  to  with  indication  of  their  present  location 
and  archival  number. 

The  two  new  chapters  of  this  edition  appeared  before  in  the  Review  of 
Politics,  July  1953,  under  the  title,  “Ideology  and  Terror,  a Novel  Form 
of  Government,”  and  in  the  Journal  of  Politics,  February  1958,  under  the 
title,  “Totalitarian  Imperialism:  Reflections  on  the  Hungarian  Revolution.” 

The  additions  and  enlargements  of  the  present  edition,  with  the  excep- 
tion of  the  analysis  of  the  Hungarian  revolution,  appeared  first  in  the 
German  edition  published  in  1955.  Therefore  they  had  to  be  translated  and 
incorporated  into  the  English  edition.  This  difficult  job  of  editing  and 
translating  was  done  by  Mrs.  Therese  Pol,  to  whom  I am  greatly  indebted. 

Hannah  Arendt 

New  York,  April,  1958 


Preface  to  the  First  Edition  v/7 

Preface  to  the  Second  Enlarged  Edition  xi 


Chapter  one:  Antisemitism  as  an  Outrage  to  Common  Sense  3 

two:  The  Jews,  the  Nation-State,  and  the  Birth  of 

Antisemitism  11 

i:  The  Equivocalities  of  Emancipation  and  the  Jewish 
State  Banker  11.  n : Early  Antisemitism  28.  in : The 
First  Antisemitic  Parties  35.  I v : Leftist  Antisemitism 
42.  v:  The  Golden  Ape  of  Security  50. 

three:  The  Jews  and  Society  54 

i:  Between  Pariah  and  Parvenu  56.  n:  The  Potent 
Wizard  68.  hi:  Between  Vice  and  Crime  79. 

four:  The  Dreyfus  Affair  89 

i:  The  Facts  of  the  Case  89.  n : The  Third  Republic 
and  French  Jewry  95.  in:  Army  and  Clergy  Against 
the  Republic.  100.  i v : The  People  and  the  Mob  106. 

v:  The  Jews  and  the  Dreyfusards  117.  vi:  The 
Pardon  and  Its  Significance  119. 


five:  The  Political  Emancipation  of  the  Bourgeoisie  123 

i:  Expansion  and  the  Nation-State  124.  ii:  Power  and 
the  Bourgeoisie  135.  m : The  Alliance  Between  Mob 
and  Capital  147. 




Race-Thinking  Before  Racism  158 

i:  A “Race”  of  Aristocrats  Against  a ” Nation”  of 

Citizens  161.  1 1 : Race  Unity  as  a Substitute  for 

National  Emancipation  165.  in:  The  New  Key  to 

History  170.  iv:  The  “ Rights  of  Englishmen ” vs.  the 

Rights  of  Men  175. 


Race  and  Bureaucracy  185 

l:  The  Phantom  World  of  the  Dark  Continent  186. 
n : Gold  and  Race  197.  in:  The  Imperialist 

Character  207. 


Continental  Imperialism:  the  Pan-Movements  222 

i:  Tribal  Nationalism  227.  n:  The  Inheritance  of 

Lawlessness  243.  m:  Party  and  Movement  250. 


The  Decline  of  the  Nation-State  and  the  End 

of  the  Rights  of  Man  267 

i:  The  “ Nation  of  Minorities " and  the  Stateless 

People  269.  n:  The  Perplexities  of  the  Rights  of 

Man  290. 



A Classless  Society  305 

i:  The  Masses  305.  n:  The  Temporary  Alliance 

Between  the  Mob  and  the  Elite  326. 


The  Totalitarian  Movement  341 

i:  Totalitarian  Propaganda  341.  u:  Totalitarian 

Organization  364. 


Totalitarianism  in  Power  389 

l:  The  So-called  Totalitarian  State  392.  ii:  The  Secret 

Police  419.  in:  Total  Domination  437. 


Ideology  and  Terror: 

A Novel  Form  of  Government  460 





Epilogue:  Reflections  on  the 

Hungarian  Revolution  480 

i:  Russia  after  Stalin's  Death  483.  u:  The  Hungarian 
Revolution  492.  in:  The  Satellite  System  502. 




This  is  a remarkable  century  which  opened  with 
the  Revolution  and  ended  with  the  Affaire!  Per- 
haps it  will  be  called  the  century  of  rubbish . 


chapter  one:  Antisemitism  as  an  Outrage 
to  Common  Sense 

Many  still  consider  it  an  accident  that  Nazi  ideology  centered  around 
antisemitism  and  that  Nazi  policy,  consistently  and  uncompromis- 
ingly, aimed  at  the  persecution  and  finally  the  extermination  of  the  Jews. 
Only  the  horror  of  the  final  catastrophe,  and  even  more  the  homelessness 
and  uprootedness  of  the  survivors,  made  the  “Jewish  question”  so  promi- 
nent in  our  everyday  political  life.  What  the  Nazis  themselves  claimed  to 
be  their  chief  discovery — the  role  of  the  Jewish  people  in  world  politics — 
and  their  chief  interest — persecution  of  Jews  all  over  the  world — have 
been  regarded- by  public  opinion  as  a pretext  for  winning  the  masses  or 
an  i nteresting.  device  of  demagogy. 

The  failure  to  take  seriously  what  the  Nazis  themselves  said  is  compre- 
hensible enough.  There  is  hardly  an  aspect  of  contemporary  history  more 
irritating  and  mystifying  than  the  fact  that  of  all  the  great  unsolved  po- 
litical questions  of  our  century,  it  should  have  been  this_&eemingly ^jynaff 
and  unimportant  Jewish  problem  that  had  the  dubious  honor  of  setting 
the  whole  infernal  machine  in  motion.  Such  discrepancies  between  cause 
and  effect  outrage  our  common  sense,  to  say  nothing  of  the  historian’s 
sense  of  balance  and  harmony.  Compared  with  the  events  themselves,  all 
explanations  of  antisemitism  look  as  if  they  had  been  hastily  and  hazard- 
ously contrived,  to  cover  up  an  issue  which  so, gravely.  threatens_Qur  sense 
of  proportion  and  our- liope  for  sanity. 

One  of  these  hasty  explanations  has  been  the  identification  of  antisemi- 
tism with  rampant  nationalism  and  its  xenophobic  outbursts.  Unfortu- 
nately, the  fact  is  that  modem  antisemitism  grew  in  proportion  as  tradi- 
tional nationalism  declined,  and  reached  its  climax  at  the  exact  moment 
when  the  European  system  of  nation-states  and  its  precarious  balance  of 
power  crashed. 

It  has  already  been  noticed  that  the  Nazis  were  not  simple  nationalists. 
Their  nationalist  propaganda  was  directed  toward  their  fellow-travelers  and 
not  their  convinced  members;  the  latter,  on  the  contrary,  were  never  al- 
lowed to  lose  sight  of  a consistently  supranational  approach,  to  politics. 
Nazi  “nationalism”  had  more  than  one  aspect  in  common  with  the  recent 
nationalistic  propaganda  in  the  Soviet  Union,  which  is  also  used  only  to 
feed  the  prejudices  of  the  masses.  The  Nazis  had  a genuine  and  never  re- 



voked  contempt  for  the  narrowness  of  nationalism,  the  provincialism  of 
the  nation-state,  and  they  repeated  time  and  again  that  their,  “movement,” 
international  in  scope  like  the  Bolshevik  movement,  was  more  important  to 
them  than  any  state,  which  would  necessarily  be  bound  to  a specific  terri- 
tory. And  not  only  the  Nazis,  but  fifty  years  of  antiscmitic  history,  stand 
asyevidence  against  the  identification  of  antisemitism  with  nationalism.  The 
first  antisemitic  parties  in  the  last  decades  of  the  nineteenth  century  were 
also  among  the  first  that  banded  together  internationally.  From  the  very 
beginning,  they  called  international  congresses  and  were  concerned  with  a 
co-ordination  of  international,  or  at  least  inter-European,  activities. 

General  trends,  like  the  coincident  decline  of  the  nation-state  and  the 
growth  of  antisemitism,  can  hardly  ever  be  explained  satisfactorily  by  one 
reason  or  by  one  cause  alone.  The  historian  is  in  most  such  cases  con- 
fronted with  a very  complex  historical  situation  where  he  is  almost  at 
liberty,  and  that  means  at  a loss,  to  isolate  one  factor  as  the  “spirit  of  the 
time.”  There  are,  however,  a few  helpful  general  rules.  Foremost  among 
them  for  our  purpose  is  Tocqueville’s  great  discovery  (in  UAncien  Regime  et 
la  Revolution , Book  II,  chap.  1 ) of  the  motives  for  the  Violent  hatred  felt 
by  the  French  masses  for  the  aristocracy  at  the  outbreak  of  the  Revolution 
— a hatred  which  stimulated  Burke  to  remark  that  the  revolution  was  more 
concerned  with  “the  condition  of  a gentleman”  than  with  the  institution  of 
a king.  According  to  Tocqueville,  the  French  people  hated  aristocrats 
about  to  lose  their  power  more  than  it  had  ever  hated  them  before,  pre- 
cisely because  their  rapid  loss  of  real  power  was  not  accompanied  by  any 
considerable  decline  in  their  fortunes.  As  long  as  the  aristocracy  held  vast 
powers  of  jurisdiction,  they  were  not  only  tolerated  but  respected.  When 
noblemen  lost  their  privileges,  among  others  the  privilege  to  exploit  and 
oppress,  the  people  felt  them  to  be  parasites,  without  any  real  function  in 
the  rule  of  the  country.  In  other  words,  neither  oppression- nor.  exploita- 
tion as  such  is  ever  the  main  cause  for  resentment;  wealth  without  visible  ‘ 
function  is  much  more  intolerable  because  nobody  can  understand  why 
TTshould  be  tolerated. 

Antisemitism  reached  its  climax  when  Jews  had  similarly  lost  their 
public  functions  and  their  influence,  and  were  left  with  nothing  but  their 
wealth.  When  Hitler  came  to  power,  the  German  banks  were  already 
almost  judenrein  (and  it  was  here  that  Jews  had  held  key  positions  for 
more  than  a hundred  years)  and  German  Jewry  as  a whole,  after  a long 
steady  growth  in  social  status  and  numbers,  was  declining  so  rapidly  that 
statisticians  predicted  its  disappearance  in  a few  decades.  Statistics,  it  is 
true,  do  not  necessarily  point  to  real  historical  processes;  yet  it  is  note- 
worthy that  to  a statistician  Nazi  persecution  and  extermination  could  look 
like  a senseless  acceleration  of  a process  which  would  probably  have  come 
about  in  any  case. 

The  same  holds  true  for  nearly  all  Western  European  countries.  The 
Dreyfus  Affair  exploded  not  under  the  Second  Empire,  when  French  Jewry 
was  at  the  height  of  its  prosperity  and  influence,  but  under  the  Third  Re- 



public  when  Jews  had  all  but  vanished  from  important  positions  (though 
not  from  the  political  scene).  Austrian  antisemitism  became^.violent  not 
under  the  reign  of  Metternich  and  Franz  Joseph,  but  in  the  postwar  Aus- 
trian Republic  when  it  was  perfectly  obvious  that  hardly  any  other  group 
had  suffered  the  same  loss  of  influence  and  prestige  througTTthe  disappearr 
ance  of  the  Hapsburg,  monarchy. 

Persecution.  ,of  powerless  or  power-losing  groups  may  not  be  a very 
pleasant  spectacle,  but  it  does  not  spring  from  human  meanness  alone. 
What  makes  men  obey  or  tolerate  real  power  and,  on  the  other  hand,  hate 
people  who  have  wealth  without  power,  is  the  rational  instinct  that  power 
has  a certain  function  and  is  of  some  general  use.  Even  exploitation  and 
oppression  still  make  society  work  and  establish  some  kind  of  order.  Only 
wealth  without  power  or  aloofness  without  a policy  are  felt  to  be  parasitical, 
useless,  revolting,  because  such  conditions  cut  all  the  threads  which  tie  men 
together.  Wealth  which  does  not  exploit  lacks  even  the  relationship  which 
exists  between  exploiter  and  exploited;  aloofness  without  policy  does  not 
imply  even  the  minimum  concern  of  the  oppressor  for  the  oppressed. 

The  general  decline  of  Western  and  Central  European  Jewry,  however, 
constitutes  merely  the  atmosphere  in  which  the  subsequent  events  took 
place.  The  decline  itself  explains  them  as  little  as  the  mere  loss  of  power 
by  the  aristocracy  would  explain  the  French  Revolution.  To  be  aware  of 
such  general  rules  is  important  only  in  order  to  jrefuteNthose  recommenda- 
tions of  common  sense  which  lead  us  to  believeHtfiat  violent  hatred  or 
sudden  rebellion  spring  necessarily  from  great  power'ancTgreat  abuses,  and 
that  consequently  organized  hatred  of  the  Jews  cannot  but  be  a reaction  to 
their  importance  and  power. 

More  serious,  because  it  appeals  to  much  better  people,  is  another  com- 
mon-sense fallacy:  the  Jews,  because  they  were  an  entirely  powerless  group 
caught  up  in  the  general  and  insoluble  conflicts  of  the  time,  could  be  blamed 
for  them  and  finally  be  made  to  appear  the  hidden  authors  of  all  evil.  The 
best  illustration — and  the  best  refutation — of  this  explanation,  dear  to  the 
hearts  of  many  liberals,  is  in  a joke  which  was  told  after  the  first  World 
War.  An  antisemite  claimed  that  the  Jews  had  caused  the  war;  the  reply 
was:  Yes,  the  Jews  and  the  bicyclists.  Why  the  bicyclists?  asks  the  one.  Why 
the  Jews?  asks  the  other. 

The  theory  that  the  Jews  are  always  the  scapegoat  implies  that  the  scape- 

else  as  well.  It  upholds  the  perfect  innocence^ 
of  the  victim,  an  innocence  which  insinuates  noTonly  thatmo  evil  was  done 
but  that  nothing  at  all  was  done  which  might  possibly  have  a connection 
with  the  issue  at  stake.  It  is  true  that  the  scapegoat  theory  in  its  purely 
arbitrary  form  never  appears  in  print.  Whenever,  however,  its  adherents 
painstakingly  try  to  explain  why  a specific  scapegoat  was  so  well  suited  to 
his  role,  they  show  that  they  have  left  the  theory  behind  them  and  have  got 
themselves  involved  in  the  usual  historical  research— where  nothing  is  ever 
discovered  except  that  history  is  made  by  many  groups  and  that  for  certain 
reasons  one  group  was  singled  out.  The  so-called  scapegoat  necessarily 



ceases  to  be  the  innocent  victim  whom  the  world  blames  for  all  its  sins  and 
through  whom  it  wishes  to  escape  punishment;  it  becomes  one  group  of 
people  among  other  groups,  all  of  which  are  involved  in  the  business  of  this 
world.  And  it  docs  not  simply  cease  to  be  coresponsible  because  it  became 
the  victim  of  the  world’s  injustice  and  cruelty. 

Until  recently  the  inner  inconsistency  of  the  scapegoat  theory  was  suffi- 
cient reason  to  discard  it  as  one  of  many  theories  which  are  motivated  by 
escapism.  But  the  rise  of  terror  as  a major  weapon  of  government  has  lent 
it  a credibility  greater  than  it  ever  had  before. 

fundamental  difference  between  modem  dictatorships  and  all  other 
tyrannies  oF  the  past  is  that  terror  is  no  longer  used  as  a means  to  extermi- 
nate and  frighten  opponents,  but  as  an  instrument  to  rule  masses  of  people 
who  are  perfectly  obedient.  Terror  as  we  know  it  today  strikes  without  any 
preliminary  provocation,  its  victims  are  innocent  even  from  the  point  of 
view  of  the  persecutor.  This  was  the  case  in  Nazi  Germany  when  full  terror 
was  directed  against  Jews,  i.e.,  against  people  with  certain  common  char- 
acteristics which  were  independent  of  their  specific  behavior.  In  Soviet 
Russia  the  situation  is  more  confused,  but  the  facts,  unfortunately,  are 
only  too  obvious.  On  the  one  hand,  the  Bolshevik  system,  unlike  the  Nazi, 
never  admitted  theoretically  that  it  could  practice  terror  against  innocent 
people,  and  though  in  view  of  certain  practices  this  may  look  like  hypocrisy, 
it  makes  quite  a difference.  Russian  practice,  on  the  other  hand,  is  even 
more  “advanced”  than  the  German  in  one  respect:  arbitrariness  of  terror  is 
not  even  limited  by  racial  differentiation,  while  the  old  class  categories  have 
long  since  been  discarded,  so  that  anybody  in  Russia  may  suddenly  become 
a victim  of  the  police  terror.  We  are  not  concerned  here  with  the  ultimate 
consequence  of  rule  by  terror — namely,  that  nobody,  not  even  the  executors, 
can  ever  be  free  of  fear;  in  our  context  we  are  dealing  merely  with  the  arbi- 
trariness by  which  victims  are  chosen,  and  for  this  it  is  decisive  that  they 
are  objectively  innocent,  that  they  are  chosen  regardless  of  what  they  may 
or  may  not  have  done . 

At  first  glance  this  may  look  tike  a belated  confirmation  of  the  old  scape- 
goat theory,  and  it  is  true  that  the  victim  of  modern  terror  does  show  all 
the  characteristics  of  the  scapegoat:  he  is  objectively  and  absolutely  inno- 
cent because  nothing  he  did  or  omitted  to  do  matters  or  has  any  connection 
with  his  fate. 

There  is,  therefore,  a temptation  to  return  to  an  explanation  which  auto- 
matically discharges  the  victim  of  responsibility:  it  seems  quite  adequate 
to  a reality  in  which  nothing  strikes  us  more  forcefully  than  the  utter  inno- 
cence of  the  individual  caught  in  the  horror  machine  and  his  utter  inability 
to  change  his  fate.  Terror,  however,  is  only  in  the  last  instance  of  its  develop- 
ment a mere  form  of  government.  In  order  to  establish  a totalitarian  regime, 
terror  must  be  presented  as  an  instrument  for  carrying  out  a specific  ideology; 
and  that  ideology  must  have  won  the  adherence  of  many,  and  even  a majority, 
before  terror  can  be  stabilized.  The  point  for  the  historian  is  that  the  Jews, 
before  becoming  the  main  victims  of  modem  terror,  were  the  center  of  Nazi 

O <r  > ; ^ T 


ideology.  And  an  ideology  which  has  to  persuade  and  mobilize  people  cannot 
choose  its  victim  arbitrarily..  In  other  words,  if  a patent  forgery  like  the 
“Protocols  of  the  Elders  of  Zion”  is  believed  by  so  many  people  that  it  can 
become  the  text  of  a whole  political  movement,  the  task  of  the  historian 
is  no  longer  to  discover  a forgery.  Certainly  it  is  not  to  invent  explanations 
which  dismiss  the  chief  political  and  historical  fact  of  the  matter:  that  the 
forgery  is  being  believed.  This  fact  is  more  important  than  the  (historically 
speaking,  secondary)  circumstance  that  it  is  forgery. 

The  scapegoat  explanation  therefore  remains  one  of  the  principal  at- 
tempts to  escape  the  seriousness  of  antisemitism  and  the  significance  of  the 
fact  that  the  Jews  were  driven  into  the  storm  center  of  events.  Equally  wide- 
spread is  the  opposite  doctrine  of  an  “eternal  antisemitism”  in  which  Jew- 
hatred  is  a normal  and  natural  reaction  to  which  history  gives  only  more 
or  less  opportunity.  Outbursts  need  no  special  explanation  because  they  are 
natural  consequences  of  an  eternal  problem.  That  this  doctrine  was  adopted 
by  professional  antisemites  is  a~  matter  of  course;  it  gives  the  best  possible 
alibi  for  all  horrors.  If  it  is  true  that  mankind  has  insisted  on  murdering 
Jews  for  more  than  two  thousand  years,  then  Jew-killing  is  a normal,  and 
even  human,  occupation  and  Jew-hatred  is  justified  beyond  the  need  of 

The  more  surprising  aspect  of  this  explanation,  the  assumption  of  an 
eternal  antisemitism,  is  that  it  has  been  adopted  by,  a great  many  unbiased 
historians  and  by  an  even  greater  number  of  Jews.  It  is  this  odd  coincidence 
which  makes  the  theory  so  very  dangerous  and  confusing.  Its  escapist  basis 
is  in  both  instances  the  same:  just  as  antisemites  understandably  desire  to 
escape  responsibility  for  their  deeds,  so  Jews,  attacked  and  on  the  defensive, 
even  more  understandably  do  not  wish  under  any  circumstances  to  discuss 
their  share  of  responsibility.  In  the  case  of  Jewish,  and  frequently  of  Chris- 
tian, adherents  of  this  doctrine,  however,  the  escapist  tendencies  of  official 
apologetics  are  based  upon  more  important  and  less  rational  motives. 

The  birth  and  growth  of  modern  antisemitism  has  been  accompanied  by 
and  interconnected  with  J^sh^&sjmilation,  the  secularization  and  withering 
away  of  the  old  religious  and  spiritual  values  of  Judaism.  What  actually 
happened  was  that  great  parts  of  the  Jewish  people  were  at  the  same  time 
threatened  by  physical  extinction  from  without ^ and  .dissolution,  from  within. 
In  this  situation,  Jews  concerned  with  the  survival  of  their  people  would, 
in  a curious  desperate  misinterpretation,  hit  on  the  consoling  idea  that  anti- 
semitism, after  all,  might  be  an  excellent  means  for  keeping  the  people  to- 
gether, so  that  the  assumption  of  eternal  antisemitism  would  even  imply  an 
eternal  guarantee  of  Jewish  existence.  This  superstition,  a secularized 
travesty  of  the  idea  of  eternity  inherent  in  a faith  in  chosenness  and  a Mes- 
sianic hope,  has  been  strengthened  through  the  fact  that  for  many  centuries 
the  Jews  experienced  the  Christian  brand  of  hostility  which  was  indeed  a 
powerful  agent  of  preservation,  spiritually  as  well  as  politically.  The  Jews' 
mistook  modern  anti-Christian  antisemitism  for  the  old  religious  Jew-hatred 
— and  this  all  the  more  innocently  because  their  assimilation  had  by-passed 



Christianity  in  its  religious  and  cultural  aspect.  Confronted  with  an  obvious 
symptom  of  the  decline  of  Christianity,  they  could  therefore  imagine  in 
all  ignorance  that  this  was  some  revival  of  the  so-called  “Dark  Ages. 
Ignorance  or  misunderstanding  of  their  own  past  were  partly  responsible  for 
their  fatal  underestimation  of  the  actual  and  unprecedented  dangers  which 
lay  ahead.  But  one  should  also  bear  in  mind  that  lack  of  political  ability 
and  judgment  have  been  caused  by  the  very  nature  of  Jewish  history,  the 
history  of  a people  without  a government,  without  a country,  and  without 
a language.  Jewish  history  offers  the  extraordinary  spectacle  of  a people, 
unique  in  this  respect,  which  began  its  history  with  a well-defined  concept 
of  history  and  an  almost  conscious  resolution  to  achieve  a well-circum- 
scribed plan  on  earth  and  then,  without  giving  up  this  concept,  avoided  all 
political  action  for  two  thousand  years.  The  result  was  that  the  political 
history  of  the  Jewish  people  became  even  more  dependent  upon  unforeseen, 
accidental  factors  than  the  history  of  other  nations,  so  that  the  Jews  stumbled 
from  one  role  to  the  other  and  accepted  responsibility  for  none.  / 

In  view  of  the  final  catastrophe,  which  brought  the  Jews  so  near  to  com- 
plete annihilation,  the  thesis  of  eternal  antisemitism  has  become  more  dan- 
gerous than  ever.  Today  it  would  absolve  Jew-haters  of  crimes  greater  than 
anybody  had  ever  believed  possible.  Antisemitism,  far  from  being  a mys- 
terious guarantee  of  the  survival  of  the  Jewish  people,  has  been  clearly 
revealed  as  a threat  of  its  extermination.  Yet  this  explanation  of  antisemitism, 
like  the  scapegoat  theory  and  for  similar  reasons,  has  outlived  its  refutation 
by  reality.  It  stresses,  after  all,  with  different  arguments  but  equal  stub- 
bornness, that  complete  and  inhuman  innocence  which  so  strikingly  char- 
acterizes victims  of  modern  terror,  and  therefore  seems  confirmed  by  the 
events.  It  even  has  the  advantage  over  the  scapegoat  theory  that  somehow  it 
answers  the  uncomfortable  question:  Why  the  Jews  of  all  people? — if  only 
with  the  question  begging  reply:  Eternal  hostility. 

It  is  quite  remarkable  that  the  only  two  doctrines  which  at  least  attempt 
to  explain  the  political  significance  of  the  antisemitic  movement  deny  all 
specific  Jewish  responsibility  and  refuse  to  discuss  matters  in  specific  his- 
torical terms.  In  this  inherent  negation  of  the  significance  of  human  be- 
havior, they  bear  a terrible  resemblance  to  those  modern  practices  and 
forms  of  government  which,  by  means  of  arbitrary  terror,  liquidate  the  very 
possibility  of  human  activity.  Somehow  in  the  extermination  camps  Jews 
were  murdered  as  if  in  accordance  with  the  explanation  these  doctrines 
had  given  of  why  they  were  hated:  regardless  of  what  they  had  done  or 
omitted  to  do,  regardless  of  vice  or  virtue.  Moreover,  the  murderers  them- 
selves, only  obeying  orders  and  proud  of  their  passionless  efficiency,  un- 
cannily resembled  the  “innocent”  instruments  of  an  inhuman  impersonal 
course  of  events  which  the  doctrine  of  eternal  antisemitism  had  considered 
them  to  be. 

Such  common  denominators  between  theory  and  practice  are  by  them- 
selves no  indication  of  historical  truth,  although  they  are  an  indication  of 
the  “timely”  character  of  such  opinions  and  explain  why  they  sound  so 



plausible  to  the  multitude.  The  historian  is  concerned  with  them  only  insofar 
as  they  are  themselves  part  of  his  history  and  because  they  stand  in  the  way 
of  his  search  for  truth.  Being  a contemporary,  he  is  as  likely  to  succumb  to 
their  persuasive  force  as  anybody  else.  Caution  in  handling  generally  ac- 
cepted opinions  that  claim  to  explain  whole  trends  of  history  is  especially 
important  for  the  historian  of  modern  times,  because  the  last  century  has 
produced  an  abundance  of  ideologies  that  pretend  to  be  keys  to  history  but 
are  actually  nothing  but  desperate  efforts  to  escape  responsibility. 

Plato,  in  his  famous  fight  against  the  ancient  Sophists,  discovered  that 
their  “universal  art  of  enchanting  the  mind  by  arguments”  ( Phaedrus  261) 
had  nothing  to  do  with  truth  but  aimed  at  opinions  which  by  their  very 
nature  are  changing,  and  which  are  valid  only  “at  the  time  of  the  agreement 
and  as  long  as  the  agreement  lasts”  ( Theaetetus  172).  He  also  discovered 
the  very  insecure  position  of  truth  in  the  world,  for  from  “opinions  comes 
persuasion  and  not  from  truth”  ( Phaedrus  260).  The  most  striking  dif- 
ference between  ancient  and  modern  sophists  is  that  the  ancients  were 
satisfied  with  a passing  victory  of  the  argument  at  the  expense  of  truth, 
whereas  the  moderns  want  a more  lasting  victory  at  the  expense  of  reality. 
In  other  words,  one  destroyed  the  dignity  of  human  thought  whereas  the 
others  destroy  the  dignity  of  human  action.  The  old  manipulators  of  logic 
were  the  concern  of  the  philosopher,  whereas  the  modern  manipulators  of 
facts  stand  in  the  way  of  the  historian.  For  history  itself  is  destroyed,  and  its 
comprehensibility — based  upon  the  fact  that  it  is  enacted  by  men  and  there- 
fore can  be  understood  by  men — is  in  danger,  whenever  facts  are  no  longer 
held  to  be  part  and  parcel  of  the  past  and  present  world,  and  are  misused 
to  prove  this  or  that  opinion. 

There  are,  to  be  sure,  few  guides  left  through  the  labyrinth  of  inarticulate 
facts  if  opinions  are  discarded  and  tradition  is  no  longer  accepted  as  un- 
questionable. Such  perplexities  of  historiography,  however,  are  very  minor 
consequences,  considering  the  profound  upheavals  of  our  time  and  their 
effect  upon  the  historical  structures  of  Western  mankind.  Their  immediate 
result  has  been  to  expose  all  those  components  of  our  history  which  up  to 
now  had  been  hidden  from  our  view.  This  does  not  mean  that  what  came 
crashing  down  in  this  crisis  (perhaps  the  most  profound  crisis  in  Western 
history  since  the  downfall  of  the  Roman  Empire)  was  mere  fagade,  although 
many  things  have  been  revealed  as  fagade  that  only  a few  decades  ago  we 
thought  were  indestructible  essences. 

The  simultaneous  decline  of  the  European  nation-state  and  growth  of 
antisemitic  movements,  the  coincident  downfall  of  nationally  organized  Eu- 
rope and  the  extermination  of  Jews,  which  was  prepared  for  by  the  victory 
of  antisemitism  over  all  competing  isms  in  the  preceding  struggle  for  persua- 
sion of  public  opinion,  have  to  be  taken  as  a serious  indication  of  the  source 
of  antisemitism.  Modern  antisemitism  must  be  seen  in  the  more  general 
framework  of  the  development  of  the  nation-state,  and  at  the  same  time  its 
source  must  be  found  in  certain  aspects  of  Jewish  history  and  specifically 
Jewish  functions  during  the  last  centuries.  If,  in  the  final  stage  of  disintegra- 



tion,  antiscmitic  slogans  proved  the  most  effective  means  of  inspiring  and 
organizing  great  masses  of  people  for  imperialist  expansion  and  destruction 
of  the  old  forms  of  government,  then  the  previous  history  of  the  relationship 
between  Jews  and  the  state  must  contain  elementary  clues  to  the  growing 
hostility  between  certain  groups  of  society  and  the  Jews.  We  shall  show  this 
development  in  the  next  chapter. 

If,  furthermore,  the  steady  growth  of  the  modem  mob — that  is,  of  the 
declasses  of  all  classes — produced  leaders  who,  undisturbed  by  the  question 
of  whether  the  Jews  were  sufficiently  important  to  be  made  the  focus  of  a 
political  ideology,  repeatedly  saw  in  them  the  “key  to  history”  and  the 
central  cause  of  all  evils,  then  the  previous  history  of  the  relationship  be- 
tween Jews  and  society  must  contain  the  elementary  indications  of  the 
hostile  relationship  between  the  mob  and  the  Jews.  We  shall  deal  with  the 
relationship  between  Jews  and  society  in  the  third  chapter. 

The  fourth  chapter  deals  with  the  Dreyfus  Affair,  a kind  of  dress  rehearsal 
for  the  performance  of  our  own  time.  Because  of  the  peculiar  opportunity 
it  offers  of  seeing,  in  a brief  historical  moment,  the  otherwise  hidden  po- 
tentialities of  antisemitism  as  a major  political  weapon  within  the  framework 
of  nineteenth-century  politics  and  its  relatively  well-balanced  sanity,  this 
case  has  been  treated  in  full  detail. 

The  following  three  chapters,  to  be  sure,  analyze  only  the  preparatory 
elements,  which  were  not  fully  realized  until  the  decay  of  the  nation-state 
and  the  development  of  imperialism  reached  the  foreground  of  the  political 


The  Jews,  the  Nation-State, 
and  the  Birth  of  Antisemitism 

I:  The  Equivocalities  of  Emancipation 
and  the  Jewish  State  Banker 

t the  height  of  its  development  in  the  nineteenth  century,  the  nation- 

state  granted  its  Jewish  inhabitants  equality  of  rights.  Deeper,  older, 
and  more  fateful  contradictions  are  hidden  behind  the  abstract  and  palpa- 
ble inconsistency  that  Jews  received  their  citizenship  from  governments 
which  in  the  process  of  centuries  had  made  nationality  a prerequisite  for 
citizenship  and  homogeneity  of  population  the  outstanding  characteristic 
of  the  body  politic. 

The  series  of  emancipation  edicts  which  slowly  and  hesitantly  followed 
the  French  edict  of  1792  had  been  preceded  and  were  accompanied  by 
an  equivocal  attitude  toward  its  Jewish  inhabitants  on  the  part  of  the 
nation-state.  The  breakdown  of  the  feudal  order  had  given  rise  to  the  new 
revolutionary  concept  of  equality,  according  to  which  a “nation  within 
the  nation”  could  no  longer  be  tolerated.  Jewish  restrictions  and  privi- 
leges had  to  be  abolished  together  with  all  other  special  rights  and  liberties. 
This  growth  of  equality,  however,  depended  largely  upon  the  growth  of  an 
independent  state  machine  which,  either  as  an  enlightened  despotism  or 
as  a constitutional  government  above  all  classes  and  parties,  could,  in 
splendid  isolation,  function,  rule,  and  represent  the  interests  of  the  nation 
as  a whole.  Therefore,  beginning  with  the  late  seventeenth  century,  an  un- 
precedented need  arose  for  state  credit  and  a new  expansion  of  the  state’s 
sphere  of  economic  and  business  interest,  while  no  group  among  the  Euro- 
pean populations  was  prepared  to  grant  credit  to  the  state  or  take  an  active 
part  in  the  development  of  state  business.  It  was  only  natural  that  the  Jews, 
with  their  age-old  experience  as  moneylenders  and  their  connections  with 
European  nobility — to  whom  they  frequently  owed  local  protection  and  for 
whom  they  used  to  handle  financial  matters — would  be  called  upon  for  help; 
it  was  clearly  in  the  interest  of  the  new  state  business  to  grant  the  Jews  cer- 
tain privileges  and  to  treat  them  as  a separate  group.  Under  no  circumstances 
could  the  state  afford  to  see  them  wholly  assimilated  into  the  rest  of  the 
population,  which  refused  credit  to  the  state,  was  reluctant  to  enter  and  to 



develop  businesses  owned  by  the  state,  and  followed  the  routine  pattern 
of  private  capitalistic  enterprise. 

Emancipation  of  the  Jews,  therefore,  as  granted  by  the  national  state 
system  in  Europe  during  the  nineteenth  century,  had  a double  origin  and 
an  ever-present  equivocal  meaning.  On  the  one  hand  it  was  due  to  the 
political  and  legal  structure  of  a new  body  politic  which  could  function  only 
under  the  conditions  of  political  and  legal  equality.  Governments,  for  their 
own  sake,  had  to  iron  out  the  inequalities  of  the  old  order  as  completely  and 
as  quickly  as  possible.  On  the  other  hand,  it  was  the  clear  result  of  a gradual 
extension  of  specific  Jewish  privileges,  granted  originally  only  to  individuals, 
then  through  them  to  a small  group  of  well-to-do  Jews;  only  when  this 
limited  group  could  no  longer  handle  by  themselves  the  ever-growing  de- 
mands of  state  business,  were  these  privileges  finally  extended  to  the  whole 
of  Western  and  Central  European  Jewry.1 

Thus,  at  the  same  time  and  in  the  same  countries,  emancipation  meant 
equality  and  privileges,  the  destruction  of  the  old  Jewish  community  auton- 
omy and  the  conscious  preservation  of  the  Jews  as  a separate  group  in 
society,  the  abolition  of  special  restrictions  and  special  rights  and  the  exten- 
sion of  such  rights  to  a growing  group  of  individuals.  Equality  of  condition 
for  all  nationals  had  become  the  premise  of  the  new  body  politic,  and  while 
this  equality  had  actually  been  carried  out  at  least  to  the  extent  of  depriving 
the  old  ruling  classes  of  their  privilege  to  govern  and  the  old  oppressed 
classes  of  their  right  to  be  protected,  the  process  coincided  with  the  birth 
of  the  class  society  which  again  separated  the  nationals,  economically  and 
socially,  as  efficiently  as  the  old  regime.  Equality  of  condition,  as  the 
Jacobins  had  understood  it  in  the  French  Revolution,  became  a reality 
only  in  America,  whereas  on  the  European  continent  it  was  at  once  re- 
placed by  a mere  formal  equality  before  the  law. 

The  fundamental  contradiction  between  a political  body  based  on  equality 
before  the  law  and  a society  based  on  the  inequality  of  the  class  system 
prevented  the  development  of  functioning  republics  as  well  as  the  birth  of 
a new  political  hierarchy.  An  insurmountable  inequality  of  social  condition, 

1To  the  modern  historian  rights  and  liberties  granted  the  court  Jews  during  the 
seventeenth  and  eighteenth  centuries  may  appear  to  be  only  the  forerunners  of 
equality:  court  Jews  could  live  wherever  they  liked,  they  were  permitted  to  travel 
freely  within  the  realm  of  their  sovereign,  they  were  allowed  to  bear  arms  and  had 
rights  to  special  protection  from  local  authorities.  Actually  these  court  Jews,  char- 
acteristically called  Generalprivilegierte  Jitdcn  in  Prussia,  not  only  enjoyed  better 
living  conditions  than  their  fellow  Jews  who  still  lived  under  almost  medieval  re- 
strictions, but  they  were  better  off  than  their  non-Jewish  neighbors.  Their  standard 
of  living  was  much  higher  than  that  of  the  contemporary  middle  class,  their  privi- 
leges in  most  cases  were  greater  than  those  granted  to  the  merchants.  Nor  did  this 
situation  escape  the  attention  of  their  contemporaries.  Christian  Wilhelm  Dohm,  the 
outstanding  advocate  of  Jewish  emancipation  in  eighteenth-century  Prussia,  com- 
plained of  the  practice,  in  force  since  the  time  of  Frederick  William  I,  which  granted 
rich  Jews  “all  sorts  of  favors  and  support”  often  “at  the  expense  of,  and  with 
neglect  of  diligent  legal  [that  is,  non-Jewish]  citizens.”  In  Denkwiirdigkeiten  meiner 
Zeit,  Lemgo,  1814-1819,  IV,  487. 


THE  nation-state;  the  birth  of  antisemitism 

the  fact  that  class  membership  on  the  continent  was  bestowed  upon  the  in- 
dividual and,  up  to  the  first  World  War,  almost  guaranteed  to  him  by  birth, 
could  nevertheless  exist  side  by  side  with  political  equality.  Only  politically 
backward  countries,  like  Germany,  had  retained  a few  feudal  remnants. 
There  members  of  the  aristocracy,  which  on  the  whole  was  well  on  its  way 
to  transforming  itself  into  a class,  had  a privileged  political  status,  and  thus 
could  preserve  as  a group  a certain  special  relationship  to  the  state.  But 
these  were  remnants.  The  fully  developed  class  system  meant  invariably 
that  the  status  of  the  individual  was  defined  by  his  membership  in  his  own 
class  and  his  relationship  to  another,  and  not  by  his  position  in  the  state 
or  within  its  machinery. 

The  only  exceptions  to  this  general  rule  were  the  Jews.  They  did  not 
form  a class  of  their  own  and  they  did  not  belong  to  any  of  the  classes  in 
their  countries.  As  a group,  they  were  neither  workers,  middle-class  people, 
landholders,  nor  peasants.  Their  wealth  seemed  to  make  them  part  of  the 
middle  class,  but  they  did  not  share  in  its  capitalist  development;  they  were 
scarcely  represented  in  industrial  enterprise  and  if,  in  the  last  stages  of  their 
history  in  Europe,  they  became  employers  on  a large  scale,  they  employed 
white-collar  personnel  and  not  workers.  In  other  words,  although  their  status 
was  defined  through  their  being  Jews,  it  was  not  defined  through  their  rela- 
tionship to  another  class.  Their  special  protection  from  the  state  (whether 
in  the  old  form  of  open  privileges,  or  a special  emancipation  edict  which 
no  other  group  needed  and  which  frequently  had  to  be  reinforced  against 
the  hostility  of  society)  and  their  special  services  to  the  governments  pre- 
vented their  submersion  in  the  class  system  as  well  as  their  own  establish- 
ment as  a class.2  Whenever,  therefore,  they  were  admitted  to  and  entered 
society,  they  became  a well-defined,  self-preserving  group  within  one  of  the 
classes,  the  aristocracy  or  the  bourgeoisie. 

There  is  no  doubt  that  the  nation-state’s  interest  in  preserving  the  Jews 
as  a special  group  and  preventing  their  assimilation  into  class  society  coin- 
cided with  the  Jewish  interest  in  self-preservation  and  group  survival.  It  is 
also  more  than  probable  that  without  this  coincidence  the  governments’ 
attempts  would  have  been  in  vain;  the  powerful  trends  toward  equalization 
of  all  citizens  from  the  side  ot  the  state  and  incorporation  of  each  individual 
into  a class  from  the  side  of  society,  both  clearly  implying  complete  Jewish 
assimilation,  could  be  frustrated  only  through  a combination  of  government 
intervention  and  voluntary  co-operation.  Official  policies  for  the  Jews  were, 
after  all,  not  always  so  consistent  and  unwavering  as  we  may  believe  if  we 
consider  only  the  final  results.3  It  is  indeed  surprising  to  see  how  consistently 

2 Jacob  Lestschinsky,  in  an  early  discussion  of  the  Jewish  problem,  pointed  out 
that  Jews  did  not  belong  to  any  social  class,  and  spoke  of  a “Klasseneinschiebsel” 
(in  Weltwirtschafts-Archiv,  1929,  Band  30,  123  ff.),  but  saw  only  the  disadvantages 
of  this  situation  in  Eastern  Europe,  not  its  great  advantages  in  Western  and  Central 
European  countries. 

3 For  example,  under  Frederick  II  after  the  Seven  Years’  War,  a decided  effort 
was  made  in  Prussia  to  incorporate  the  Jews  into  a kind  of  mercantile  system.  The 



Jews  neglected  their  chances  for  normal  capitalist  enterprise  and  business.* * * 4 
But  without  the  interests  and  practices  of  the  governments,  the  Jews  could 
hardly  have  preserved  their  group  identity. 

In  contrast  to  all  other  groups,  the  Jews  were  defined  and  their  position 
determined  by  the  body  politic.  Since,  however,  this  body  politic  had  no 
other  social  reality,  they  were,  socially  speaking,  in  the  void.  Their  social 
inequality  was  quite  dilTcrent  from  the  inequality  of  the  class  system;  it  was 
again  mainly  the  result  of  their  relationship  to  the  state,  so  that,  in  society, 
the  very  fact  of  being  born  a Jew  would  either  mean  that  one  was  over- 
privileged — under  special  protection  of  the  government — or  underprivileged, 
lacking  certain  rights  and  opportunities  which  were  withheld  from  the  Jews 
in  order  to  prevent  their  assimilation. 

The  schematic  outline  of  the  simultaneous  rise  and  decline  of  the  Euro- 
pean nation-state  system  and  European  Jewry  unfolds  roughly  in  the  fol- 
lowing stages: 

1.  The  seventeenth  and  eighteenth  centuries  witnessed  the  slow  develop- 
ment of  nation-states  under  the  tutelage  of  absolute  monarchs.  Individual 
Jews  everywhere  rose  out  of  deep  obscurity  into  the  sometimes  glamorous, 
and  always  influential,  position  of  court  Jews  who  financed  state  affairs  and 
handled  the  financial  transactions  of  their  princes.  This  development  af- 
fected the  masses  who  continued  to  live  in  a more  or  less  feudal  order  as 
little  as  it  affected  the  Jewish  people  as  a whole. 

2.  After  the  French  Revolution,  which  abruptly  changed  political  condi- 
tions on  the  whole  European  continent,  nation-states  in  the  modern  sense 
emerged  whose  business  transactions  required  a considerably  larger  amount 
of  capital  and  credit  than  the  court  Jews  had  ever  been  asked  to  place  at  a 

older  general  Judcn-reglement  of  1750  was  supplanted  by  a system  of  regular  per- 

mits issued  only  to  those  inhabitants  who  invested  a considerable  part  of  their  for- 
tune in  new  manufacturing  enterprises.  But  here,  as  everywhere  else,  such  govern- 

ment attempts  failed  completely. 

4 Felix  Priebatsch  (“Die  Judenpolitik  des  furstlichen  Absolutismus  im  17.  und  18. 
Jahrhundert,”  in  Forschungen  und  Versuche  zur  Geschichte  des  Mittelalters  und  der 
Neuzeit , 1915)  cites  a typical  example  from  the  early  eighteenth  century:  “When 
the  mirror  factory  in  Neuhaus,  Lower  Austria,  which  was  subsidized  by  the  adminis- 
tration, did  not  produce,  the  Jew  Wertheimer  gave  the  Emperor  money  to  buy  it. 
When  asked  to  take  over  the  factory  he  refused,  stating  that  his  time  was  taken  up 
with  his  financial  transactions.” 

See  also  Max  Kohler,  “Beitrage  zur  neueren  jUdischen  Wirtschaftsgeschichte.  Die 
Juden  in  Halberstadt  und  Umgebung,”  in  Studien  zur  Geschichte  der  Wirtschajt  und 
Geisteskultur , 1927,  Band  3. 

In  this  tradition,  which  kept  rich  Jews  from  real  positions  of  power  in  capitalism, 
is  the  fact  that  in  1911  the  Paris  Rothschilds  sold  their  share  in  the  oil  wells  of  Baku 
to  the  Royal  Shell  group,  after  having  been,  with  the  exception  of  Rockefeller,  the 
world’s  biggest  petroleum  tycoons.  This  incident  is  reported  in  Richard  Lewinsohn, 
Wie  sie  gross  und  reich  wurden , Berlin,  1927. 

Andre  Sayou’s  statement  (“Les  Juifs”  in  Revue  Economique  Internationale , 1932) 
in  his  polemic  against  Werner  Sombart’s  identification  of  Jews  with  capitalist  develop- 
ment, may  be  taken  as  a general  rule:  “The  Rothschilds  and  other  Israelites  who 
were  almost  exclusively  engaged  in  launching  state  loans  and  in  the  international 
movement  of  capital,  did  not  try  at  all  ...  to  create  great  industries.” 


THE  nation-state;  the  birth  of  antisemitism 

prince's  disposal.  Only  the  combined  wealth  of  the  wealthier  strata  of 
Western  and  Central  European  Jewry,  which  they  entrusted  to  some  promi- 
nent Jewish  bankers  for  such  purposes,  could  suffice  to  meet  the  new  en- 
larged governmental  needs.  This  period  brought  with  it  the  granting  of 
privileges,  which  up  to  then  had  been  necessary  only  for  court  Jews,  to 
the  larger  wealthy  class,  which  had  managed  to  settle  in  the  more  important 
urban  and  financial  centers  in  the  eighteenth  century.  Finally  emancipation 
was  granted  in  all  full-fledged  nation-states  and  withheld  only  in  those  coun- 
tries where  Jews,  because  of  their  numbers  and  the  general  backwardness 
of  these  regions,  had  not  been  able  to  organize  themselves  into  a special 
separate  group  whose  economic  function  was  financial  support  of  their 

3.  Since  this  intimate  relationship  between  national  government  and  Jews 
had  rested  on  the  indifference  of  the  bourgeoisie  to  politics  in  general  and 
state  finance  in  particular,  this  period  came  to  an  end  with  the  rise  of  im- 
perialism at  the  end  of  the  nineteenth  century  when  capitalist  business  in 
the  form  of  expansion  could  no  longer  be  carried  out  without  active  political 
help  and  intervention  by  the  state.  Imperialism,  on  the  other  hand,  under- 
mined the  very  foundations  of  the  nation-state  and  introduced  into  the 
European  comity  of  nations  the  competitive  spirit  of  business  concerns. 
In  the  early  decades  of  this  development,  Jews  lost  their  exclusive  position 
in  state  business  to  imperialistically  minded  businessmen;  they  declined  in 
importance  as  a group,  although  individual  Jews  kept  their  influence  as 
financial  advisers  and  as  inter-European  middlemen.  These  Jews,  however — 
in  contrast  to  the  nineteenth-century  state  bankers — had  even  less  need  of 
the  Jewish  community  at  large,  notwithstanding  its  wealth,  than  the  court 
Jews  of  the  seventeenth  and  eighteenth  centuries,  and  therefore  they  fre- 
quently cut  themselves  off  completely  from  the  Jewish  community.  The 
Jewish  communities  were  no  longer  financially  organized,  and  although  in- 
dividual Jews  in  high  positions  remained  representative  of  Jewry  as  a whole 
in  the  eyes  of  the  Gentile  world,  there  was  little  if  any  material  reality  be- 
hind this. 

4.  As  a group,  Western  Jewry  disintegrated  together  with  the  nation- 
state during  the  decades  preceding  the  outbreak  of  the  first  World  War. 
The  rapid  decline  of  Europe  after  the  war  found  them  already  deprived  of 
their  former  power,  atomized  into  a herd  of  wealthy  individuals.  In  an  im- 
perialist age,  Jewish  wealth  had  become  insignificant;  to  a Europe  with  no 
sense  of  balance  of  power  between  its  nations  and  of  inter-European  solidar- 
ity, the  non-national,  inter-European  Jewish  element  became  an  object  of 
universal  hatred  because  of  its  useless  wealth,  and  of  contempt  because  of 
its  lack  of  power. 

The  first  governments  to  need  regular  income  and  secure  finances  were 
the  absolute  monarchies  under  which  the  nation-state  came  into  being. 
Feudal  princes  and  kings  also  had  needed  money,  and  even  credit,  but  for 
specific  purposes  and  temporary  operations  only;  even  in  the  sixteenth  cen- 



tury,  when  the  Fuggers  put  their  own  credit  at  the  disposal  of  the  state, 
they  were  not  yet  thinking  of  establishing  a special  state  credit.  The  absolute 
monarchs  at  first  provided  for  their  financial  needs  partly  through  the  old 
method  of  war  and  looting,  and  partly  through  the  new  device  of  tax 
monopoly.  This  undermined  the  power  and  ruined  the  fortunes  of  the  nobil- 
ity without  assuaging  the  growing  hostility  of  the  population. 

For  a long  time  the  absolute  monarchies  looked  about  society  for  a class 
upon  which  to  rely  as  securely  as  the  feudal  monarchy  had  upon  the  nobility. 
In  France  an  incessant  struggle  between  the  guilds  and  the  monarchy,  which 
wanted  to  incorporate  them  into  the  state  system,  had  been  going  on  since 
the  fifteenth  century.  The  most  interesting  of  these  experiments  were  doubt- 
less the  rise  of  mercantilism  and  the  attempts  of  the  absolute  state  to  get 
an  absolute  monopoly  over  national  business  and  industry.  The  resulting 
disaster,  and  the  bankruptcy  brought  about  by  the  concerted  resistance  of 
the  rising  bourgeoisie,  are  sufficiently  well  known.5 

Before  the  emancipation  edicts,  every  princely  household  and  every  mon- 
arch in  Europe  already  had  a court  Jew  to  handle  financial  business.  During 
the  seventeenth  and  eighteenth  centuries,  these  court  Jews  were  always  single 
individuals  who  had  inter-European  connections  and  inter-European  credit 
at  their  disposal,  but  did  not  form  an  international  financial  entity.0  Char- 

5 The  influence,  however,  of  mercantile  experiments  on  future  developments  can 
hardly  be  overrated.  France  was  the  only  country  where  the  mercantile  system  was 
tried  consistently  and  resulted  in  an  early  flourishing  of  manufactures  which  owed  their 
existence  to  state  interference;  she  never  quite  recovered  from  the  experience. 
In  the  era  of  free  enterprise,  her  bourgeoisie  shunned  unprotected  investment  in 
native  industries  while  her  bureaucracy,  also  a product  of  the  mercantile  system,  sur- 
vived its  collapse.  Despite  the  fact  that  the  bureaucracy  also  lost  all  its  productive 
functions,  it  is  even  today  more  characteristic  of  the  country  and  a greater  impediment 
to  her  recovery  than  the  bourgeoisie. 

6 This  had  been  the  case  in  England  since  Queen  Elizabeth’s  Marrano  banker 
and  the  Jewish  financiers  of  Cromwell’s  armies,  until  one  of  the  twelve  Jewish  brokers 
admitted  to  the  London  Stock  Exchange  was  said  to  have  handled  one-quarter  of  all 
government  loans  of  his  day  (see  Salo  W.  Baron,  A Social  and  Religious  History  of  the 
Jews,  1937,  Vol.  II:  Jews  and  Capitalism );  in  Austria,  where  in  only  forty  years 
(1695-1739),  the  Jews  credited  the  government  with  more  than  35  million  florins 
and  where  the  death  of  Samuel  Oppenheimcr  in  1703  resulted  in  a grave  financial 
crisis  for  both  state  and  Emperor;  in  Bavaria,  where  in  1808  80  per  cent  of  all  govern- 
ment loans  were  endorsed  and  negotiated  by  Jews  (see  M.  Grunwald,  Samuel  Oppen- 
heimer  und  sein  Kreis,  1913);  in  France,  where  mercantile  conditions  were  especially 
favorable  for  the  Jews,  Colbert  already  praised  their  great  usefulness  to  the  state 
(Baron,  op.  cit.,  loc.  ci7.)t  and  where  in  the  middle  of  the  eighteenth  century  the  German 
Jew,  Liefman  Calmer,  was  made  a baron  by  a grateful  king  who  appreciated  services 
and  loyalty  to  “Our  state  and  Our  person”  (Robert  Anchel,  “Un  Baron  Juif 
Frangais  au  18e  siecle,  Liefman  Calmer,”  in  Souvenir  et  Science,  I,  pp.  52-55);  and 
also  in  Prussia  where  Frederick  ll’s  Miinzjuden  were  titled  and  where,  at  the  end 
of  the  eighteenth  century,  400  Jewish  families  formed  one  of  the  wealthiest  groups  in 
Berlin.  (One  of  the  best  descriptions  of  Berlin  and  the  role  of  the  Jews  in  its  society 
at  the  turn  of  the  eighteenth  century  is  to  be  found  in  Wilhelm  Dilthey,  Das  Leben 
Schleiermachers,  1870,  pp.  182  ff.). 


THE  nation-state;  the  birth  of  antisemitism 

acteristic  of  these  times,  when  Jewish  individuals  and  the  first  small  wealthy 
Jewish  communities  were  more  powerful  than  at  any  time  in  the  nineteenth 
century,7  was  the  frankness  with  which  their  privileged  status  and  their 
right  to  it  was  discussed,  and  the  careful  testimony  of  the  authorities  to  the 
importance  of  their  services  to  the  state.  There  was  not  the  slightest  doubt 
or  ambiguity  about  the  connection  between  services  rendered  and  privileges 
granted.  Privileged  Jews  received  noble  titles  almost  as  a matter  of  course 
in  France,  Bavaria,  Austria  and  Prussia,  so  that  even  outwardly  they  were 
more  than  just  wealthy  men.  The  fact  that  the  Rothschilds  had  such  a hard 
time  getting  their  application  for  a title  approved  by  the  Austrian  govern- 
ment (they  succeeded  in  1817),  was  the  signal  that  a whole  period  had 
come  to  an  end. 

By  the  end  of  the  eighteenth  century  it  had  become  clear  that  none  of  the 
estates  or  classes  in  the  various  countries  was  willing  or  able  to  become  the 
new  ruling  class,  that  is  to  identify  itself  with  the  government  as  the  nobility 
had  done  for  centuries.8  The  failure  of  the  absolute  monarchy  ta  find  a sub- 
stitute within  society  led  to  the  full  development  of  the  nation-state  and  its 
claim  to  be  above  all  classes,  completely  independent  of  society  and  its 
particular  interests,  the  true  and  only  representative  of  the  nation  as  a whole. 
It  resulted,  on  the  other  side,  in  a deepening  of  the  split  between  state  and 
society  upon  which  the  body  politic  of  the  nation  rested.  Without  it,  there 
would  have  been  no  need — or  even  any  possibility — of  introducing  the 
Jews  into  European  history  on  equal  terms. 

When  all  attempts  to  ally  itself  with  one  of  the  major  classes  in  society 
had  failed,  the  state  chose  to  establish  itself  as  a tremendous  business  con- 
cern. This  was  meant  to  be  for  administrative  purposes  only,  to  be  sure,  but 
the  range  of  interests,  financial  and  otherwise,  and  the  costs  were  so  great 
that  one  cannot  but  recognize  the  existence  of  a special  sphere  of  state  busi- 
ness from  the  eighteenth  century  on.  The  independent  growth  of  state  busi- 
ness was  caused  by  a conflict  with  the  financially  powerful  forces  of  the 
time,  with  the  bourgeoisie  which  went  the  way  of  private  investment,  shunned 
all  state  intervention,  and  refused  active  financial  participation  in  what  ap- 
peared to  be  an  “unproductive”  enterprise.  Thus  the  Jews  were  the  only 
part  of  the  population  willing  to  finance  the  state’s  beginnings  and  to  tie 
their  destinies  to  its  further  development.  With  their  credit  and  international 
connections,  they  were  in  an  excellent  position  to  help  the  nation-state  to 

7 Early  in  the  eighteenth  century,  Austrian  Jews  succeeded  in  banishing  Eisemenger’s 
Entdecktes  Judentum,  1703,  and  at  the  end  of  it,  The  Merchant  of  Venice  could  be 
played  in  Berlin  only  with  a little  prologue  apologizing  to  the  (not  emancipated)  Jew- 
ish audience. 

8 The  only,  and  irrelevant,  exception  might  be  those  tax  collectors,  called  fermiers - 
generaux,  in  France,  who  rented  from  the  state  the  right  to  collect  taxes  by  guaran- 
teeing a fixed  amount  to  the  government.  They  earned  their  great  wealth  from  and 
depended  directly  upon  the  absolute  monarchy,  but  were  too  small  a group  and  too 
isolated  a phenomenon  to  be  economically  influential  by  themselves. 


establish  itself  among  the  biggest  enterprises  and  employers  of  the  time.9 

Great  privileges,  decisive  changes  in  the  Jewish  condition,  were  neces- 
sarily the  price  of  the  fulfillment  of  such  services,  and,  at  the  same  time,  the 
reward  for  great  risks.  The  greatest  privilege  was  equality.  When  the  Miinz - 
juden  of  Frederick  of  Prussia  or  the  court  Jews  of  the  Austrian  Emperor 
received  through  “general  privileges”  and  “patents”  the  same  status  which 
half  a century  later  all  Prussian  Jews  received  under  the  name  of  emancipa- 
tion and  equal  rights;  when,  at  the  end  of  the  eighteenth  century  and  at 
the  height  of  their  wealth,  the  Berlin  Jews  managed  to  prevent  an  influx 
from  the  Eastern  provinces  because  they  did  not  care  to  share  their  “equal- 
ity” with  poorer  brethren  whom  they  did  not  recognize  as  equals;  when,  at 
the  time  of  the  French  National  Assembly,  the  Bordeaux  and  Avignon  Jews 
protested  violently  against  the  French  government’s  granting  equality  to 
Jew's  of  the  Eastern  provinces — it  became  clear  that  at  least  the  Jews  were 
not  thinking  in  terms  of  equal  rights  but  of  privileges  and  special  liberties. 
And  it  is  really  not  surprising  that  privileged  Jews,  intimately  linked  to  the 
businesses  of  their  governments  and  quite  aware  of  the  nature  and  conditions 
of  their  status,  were  reluctant  to  accept  for  all  Jews  this  gift  of  a freedom 
which  they  themselves  possessed  as  the  price  for  services,  which  they  knew 
had  been  calculated  as  such  and  therefore  could  hardly  become  a right 
for  all.10 

Only  at  the  end  of  the  nineteenth  century,  with  the  rise  of  imperialism, 
did  the  owning  classes  begin  to  change  their  original  estimate  of  the  un- 
productivity of  state  business.  Imperialist  expansion,  together  with  the 
growing  perfection  of  the  instruments  of  violence  and  the  state’s  absolute 
monopoly  of  them,  made  the  state  an  interesting  business  proposition.  This 
meant,  of  course,  that  the  Jews  gradually  but  automatically  lost  their  ex- 
clusive and  unique  position. 

But  the  good  fortune  of  the  Jews,  their  rise  from  obscurity  to  political 
significance,  would  have  to  come  to  an  even  earlier  end  if  they  had  been 
confined  to  a mere  business  function  in  the  growing  nation-states.  By  the 
middle  of  the  last  century  some  states  had  won  enough  confidence  to  get 

9 The  urgencies  compelling  the  ties  between  government  business  and  the  Jews 
may  be  gauged  by  those  cases  in  which  decidedly  anti-Jewish  officials  had  to  carry 
oul  the  policies.  So  Bismarck,  in  his  youth,  made  a few  antisemitic  speeches  only 
to  become,  as  chancellor  of  the  Reich,  a close  friend  of  Bleichroeder  and  a reliable 
protector  of  the  Jews  against  Court  Chaplain  Stoecker’s  antisemitic  movement  in 
Berlin.  William  II,  although  as  Crown  Prince  and  a member  of  the  anti-Jewish 
Prussian  nobility  very  sympathetic  to  all  antisemitic  movements  in  the  eighties, 
changed  his  antisemitic  convictions  and  deserted  his  antisemitic  proteges  overnight 
when  he  inherited  the  throne. 

10  As  early  as  the  eighteenth  century,  wherever  whole  Jewish  groups  got  wealthy 
enough  to  be  useful  to  the  state,  they  enjoyed  collective  privileges  and  were  separated 
as  a group  from  their  less  wealthy  and  useful  brethren,  even  in  the  same  country. 
Like  the  Schutzjuden  in  Prussia,  the  Bordeaux  and  Bayonne  Jews  in  France  en- 
joyed equality  long  before  the  French  Revolution  and  were  even  invited  to  present 
their  complaints  and  propositions  along  with  the  other  General  Estates  in  the  Convo- 
cation des  Etats  Generaux  of  1787. 

THE  nation-state;  the  birth  of  antisemitism 


along  without  Jewish  backing  and  financing  of  government  loans.11  The 
nationals’  growing  consciousness,  moreover,  that  their  private  destinies  were 
becoming  more  and  more  dependent  upon  those  of  their  countries  made 
them  ready  to  grant  the  governments  more  of  the  necessary  credit.  Equality 
itself  was  symbolized  in  the  availability  to  all  of  government  bonds  which 
were  finally  even  considered  the  most  secure  form  of  capital  investment 
simply  because  the  state,  which  could  wage  national  wars,  was  the  only 
agency  which  actually  could  protect  its  citizens’  properties.  From  the  middle 
of  the  nineteenth  century  on,  the  Jews  could  keep  their  prominent  position 
only  because  they  had  still  another  more  important  and  fateful  role  to  play, 
a role  also  intimately  linked  to  their  participation  in  the  destinies  of  the 
state.  Without  territory  and  without  a government  of  their  own,  the  Jews 
had  always  been  an  inter-European  element;  this  international  status  the 
nation-state  necessarily  preserved  because  the  Jews’  financial  services  rested 
on  it.  But  even  when  their  economic  usefulness  had  exhausted  itself,  the 
inter-European  status  of  the  Jews  remained  of  great  national  importance  in 
times  of  national  conflicts  and  wars. 

While  the  need  of  the  nation-states  for  Jewish  services  developed  slowly 
and  logically,  growing  out  of  the  general  context  of  European  history,  the 
rise  of  the  Jews  to  political  and  economic  significance  was  sudden  and  un- 
expected to  themselves  as  well  as  their  neighbors.  By  the  later  Middle  Ages 
the  Jewish  moneylender  had  lost  all  his  former  importance,  and  in  the 
early  sixteenth  century  Jews  had  already  been  expelled  from  cities  and 
trade  centers  into  villages  and  countryside,  thereby  exchanging  a more 
uniform  protection  from  remote  higher  authorities  for  an  insecure  status 
granted  by  petty  local  nobles.12  The  turning  point  had  been  in  the  seventeenth 
century  when,  during  the  Thirty  Years’  War,  precisely  because  of  their 
dispersion  these  small,  insignificant  moneylenders  could  guarantee  the 
necessary  provisions  to  the  mercenary  armies  of  the  war-lords  in  far-away 
lands  and  with  the  aid  of  small  peddlers  buy  victuals  in  entire  provinces. 
Since  these  wars  remained  half-feudal,  more  or  less  private  affairs  of  the 
princes,  involving  no  interest  of  other  classes  and  enlisting  no  help  from 
the  people,  the  Jews’  gain  in  status  was  very  limited  and  hardly  visible.  But 
the  number  of  court  Jews  increased  because  now  every  feudal  household 
needed  the  equivalent  of  the  court  Jew. 

As  long  as  these  court  Jews  served  small  feudal  lords  who,  as  members 

11  Jean  Capefigue  ( Histoire  des  grandes  operations  financieres,  Tome  111:  Batique, 
Bourses,  Emprunts,  1855)  pretends  that  during  the  July  Monarchy  only  the  Jews, 
and  especially  the  house  of  Rothschild,  prevented  a sound  state  credit  based  upon  the 
Banque  de  France.  He  also  claims  that  the  events  of  1848  made  the  activities  of  the 
Rothschilds  superfluous.  Raphael  Strauss  (“The  Jews  in  the  Economic  Evolution  of 
Central  Europe”  in  Jewish  Social  Studies,  III,  I,  1941)  also  remarks  that  after  1830 
“public  credit  already  became  less  of  a risk  so  that  Christian  banks  began  to  handle 
this  business  in  increasing  measure.”  Against  these  interpretations  stands  the  fact 
that  excellent  relations  prevailed  between  the  Rothschilds  and  Napoleon  III,  although 
there  can  be  no  doubt  as  to  the  general  trend  of  the  time. 

12  See  Priebatsch,  op.  cit. 



of  the  nobility,  did  not  aspire  to  represent  any  centralized  authority,  they 
were  the  servants  of  only  one  group  in  society.  The  property  they  handled, 
the  money  they  lent,  the  provisions  they  bought  up,  all  were  considered  the 
private  property  of  their  master,  so  that  such  activities  could  not  involve 
them  in  political  matters.  Hated  or  favored,  Jews  could  not  become  a political 
issue  of  any  importance. 

When,  however,  the  function  of  the  feudal  lord  changed,  when  he  de- 
veloped into  a prince  or  king,  the  function  of  his  court  Jew  changed  too.  The 
Jews,  being  an  alien  element,  without  much  interest  in  such  changes  in  their 
environment,  were  usually  the  last  to  become  aware  of  their  heightened 
status.  As  far  as  they  were  concerned,  they  went  on  handling  private  busi- 
ness, and  their  loyalty  remained  a personal  affair  unrelated  to  political  con- 
siderations. Loyalty  meant  honesty;  it  did  not  mean  taking  sides  in  a con- 
flict or  remaining  true  for  political  reasons.  To  buy  up  provisions,  to  clothe 
and  feed  an  army,  to  lend  currency  for  the  hiring  of  mercenaries,  meant 
simply  an  interest  in  the  well-being  of  a business  partner. 

This  kind  of  relationship  between  Jews  and  aristocracy  was  the  only  one 
that  ever  tied  a Jewish  group  to  another  stratum  in  society.  After  it  dis- 
appeared in  the  early  nineteenth  century,  it  was  never  replaced.  Its  only 
remnant  for  the  Jews  was  a penchant  for  aristocratic  titles  (especially  in 
Austria  and  France),  and  for  the  non-Jews  a brand  of  liberal  antisemitism 
which  lumped  Jews  and  nobility  together  and  pretended  that  they  were  in 
some  kind  of  financial  alliance  against  the  rising  bourgeoisie.  Such  argu- 
mentation, current  in  Prussia  and  France,  had  a certain  amount  of  plausibility 
as  long  as  there  was  no  general  emancipation  of  the  Jews.  The  privileges 
of  the  court  Jews  had  indeed  an  obvious  similarity  to  the  rights  and  liberties 
of  the  nobility,  and  it  was  true  that  the  Jews  were  as  much  afraid  of  losing 
their  privileges  and  used  the  same  arguments  against  equality  as  members  of 
the  aristocracy.  The  plausibility  became  even  greater  in  the  eighteenth  cen- 
tury when  most  privileged  Jews  were  given  minor  titles,  and  at  the  opening 
of  the  nineteenth  century  when  wealthy  Jews  who  had  lost  their  ties  with 
the  Jewish  communities  looked  for  new  social  status  and  began  to  model 
themselves  on  the  aristocracy.  But  all  this  was  of  little  consequence,  first 
because  it  was  quite  obvious  that  the  nobility  was  on  the  decline  and  that 
the  Jews,  on  the  contrary,  were  continually  gaining  in  status,  and  also  be- 
cause the  aristocracy  itself,  especially  in  Prussia,  happened  to  become  the 
first  class  that  produced  an  antisemitic  ideology. 

The  Jews  had  been  the  purveyors  in  wars  and  the  servants  of  kings,  but 
they  did  not  and  were  not  expected  to  engage  in  the  conflicts  themselves. 
When  these  conflicts  enlarged  into  national  wars,  they  still  remained  an  in- 
ternational element  whose  importance  and  usefulness  lay  precisely  in  their 
not  being  bound  to  any  national  cause.  No  longer  state  bankers  and  pur- 
veyors in  wars  (the  last  war  financed  by  a Jew  was  the  Prussian-Austrian 
war  of  1866,  when  Bleichroeder  helped  Bismarck  after  the  latter  had  been 
refused  the  necessary  credits  by  the  Prussian  Parliament),  the  Jews  had 
become  the  financial  advisers  and  assistants  in  peace  treaties  and,  in  a less 


THE  nation-state;  the  birth  of  antisemitism 

organized  and  more  indefinite  way,  the  providers  of  news.  The  last  peace 
treaties  drawn  up  without  Jewish  assistance  were  those  of  the  Congress  of 
Vienna,  between  the  continental  powers  and  France.  Bleichroeder’s  role  in 
the  peace  negotiations  between  Germany  and  France  in  1871  was  already 
more  significant  than  his  help  in  war,13  and  he  rendered  even  more  impor- 
tant services  in  the  late  seventies  when,  through  his  connections  with  the 
Rothschilds,  he  provided  Bismarck  with  an  indirect  news  channel  to  Ben- 
jamin Disraeli.  The  peace  treaties  of  Versailles  were  the  last  in  which  Jews 
played  a prominent  role  as  advisers.  The  last  Jew  who  owed  his  prominence 
on  the  national  scene  to  his  international  Jewish  connection  was  Walter 
Rathenau,  the  ill-fated  foreign  minister  of  the  Weimar  Republic.  He  paid 
with  his  life  for  having  (as  one  of  his  colleagues  put  it  after  his  death) 
donated  his  prestige  in  the  international  world  of  finance  and  the  support 
of  Jews  everywhere  in  the  world  14  to  the  ministers  of  the  new  Republic, 
who  were  completely  unknown  on  the  international  scene. 

That  antisemitic  governments  would  not  use  Jews  for  the  business  of  war 
and  peace  is  obvious.  But  the  elimination  of  Jews  from  the  international 
scene  had  a more  general  and  deeper  significance  than  antisemitism.  Just 
because  the  Jews  had  been  used  as  a non-national  element,  they  could  be 
of  value  in  war  and  peace  only  as  long  as  during  the  war  everybody  tried 
consciously  to  keep  the  possibilities  of  peace  intact,  only  as  long  as  every- 
body’s aim  was  a peace  of  compromise  and  the  re-establishment  of  a modus 
vivendi.  As  soon  as  “victory  or  death”  became  a determining  policy,  and 
war  actually  aimed  at  the  complete  annihilation  of  the  enemy,  the  Jews 
could  no  longer  be  of  any  use.  This  policy  spelled  destruction  of  their 
collective  existence  in  any  case,  although  the  disappearance  from  the  political 
scene  and  even  extinction  of  a specific  group-life  would  by  no  means  neces- 
sarily have  led  to  their  physical  extermination.  The  frequently  repeated 
argument,  however,  that  the  Jews  would  have  become  Nazis  as  easily  as  their 
German  fellow-citizens  if  only  they  had  been  permitted  to  join  the  move- 
ment, just  as  they  had  enlisted  in  Italy’s  Fascist  party  before  Italian  Fascism 
introduced  race  legislation,  is  only  half  true.  It  is  true  only  with  respect  to 
the  psychology  of  individual  Jews,  which  of  course  did  not  greatly  differ 
from  the  psychology  of  their  environment.  It  is  patently  false  in  a historical 
sense.  Nazism,  even  without  antisemitism,  would  have  been  the  deathblow 
to  the  existence  of  the  Jewish  people  in  Europe;  to  consent  to  it  would  have 

13  According  to  an  anecdote,  faithfully  reported  by  all  his  biographers,  Bismarck 
said  immediately  after  the  French  defeat  in  1871:  “First  of  all,  Bleichroeder  has  got 
to  go  to  Paris,  to  get  together  with  his  fellow  Jews  and  to  talk  it  (the  five  billion 
francs  for  reparations)  over  with  the  bankers.”  (See  Otto  Joehlinger,  Bismarck  und 
die  Juden,  Berlin,  1921.) 

14  See  Walter  Frank,  “Walter  Rathenau  und  die  blonde  Rasse,”  in  Forschungen  zur 
Judenfrage,  Band  IV,  1940.  Frank,  in  spite  of  his  official  position  under  the  Nazis, 
remained  somewhat  careful  about  his  sources  and  methods.  In  this  article  he  quotes 
from  the  obituaries  on  Rathenau  in  the  lsraelitisches  Familienblatt  (Hamburg,  July  6, 
1922),  Die  Zeit , (June,  1922)  and  Berliner  Tageblatt  (May  31,  1922). 



meant  suicide,  not  necessarily  for  individuals  of  Jewish  origin,  but  for  the 
Jews  as  a people. 

To  the  first  contradiction,  which  determined  the  destiny  of  European 
Jewry  during  the  last  centuries,  that  is,  the  contradiction  between  equality 
and  privilege  (rather  of  equality  granted  in  the  form  and  for  the  purpose 
of  privilege)  must  be  added  a second  contradiction:  the  Jews,  the  only  non- 
national European  people,  were  threatened  more  than  any  other  by  the 
sudden  collapse  of  the  system  of  nation-states.  This  situation  is  less  para- 
doxical than  it  may  appear  at  first  glance.  Representatives  of  the  nation, 
whether  Jacobins  from  Robespierre  to  Clemenceau,  or  representatives*  of 
Central  European  reactionary  governments  from  Metternich  to  Bismarck, 
had  one  thing  in  common:  they  were  all  sincerely  concerned  with  the  “bal- 
ance of  power”  in  Europe.  They  tried,  of  course,  to  shift  this  balance  to  the 
advantage  of  their  respective  countries,  but  they  never  dreamed  of  seizing  a 
monopoly  over  the  continent  or  of  annihilating  their  neighbors  completely. 
The  Jews  could  not  only  be  used  in  the  interest  of  this  precarious  balance, 
they  even  became  a kind  of  symbol  of  the  common  interest  of  the  Euro- 
pean nations. 

It  is  therefore  more  than  accidental  that  the  catastrophic  defeats  of  the 
peoples  of  Europe  began  with  the  catastrophe  of  the  Jewish  people.  It  was 
particularly  easy  to  begin  the  dissolution  of  the  precarious  European  balance 
of  power  with  the  elimination  of  the  Jews,  and  particularly  difficult  to  under- 
stand that  more  was  involved  in  this  elimination  than  an  unusually  cruel 
nationalism  or  an  ill-timed  revival  of  “old  prejudices.”  When  the  catastrophe 
came,  the  fate  of  the  Jewish  people  was  considered  a “special  case”  whose 
history  follows  exceptional  laws,  and  whose  destiny  was  therefore  of  no 
general  relevance.  This  breakdown  of  European  solidarity  was  at  once  re- 
flected in  the  breakdown  of  Jewish  solidarity  all  over  Europe.  When  the 
persecution  of  German  Jews  began,  Jews  of  other  European  countries  dis- 
covered that  German  Jews  constituted  an  exception  whose  fate  could  bear 
no  resemblance  to  their  own.  Similarly,  the  collapse  of  German  Jewry  was 
preceded  by  its  split  into  innumerable  factions,  each  of  which  believed  and 
hoped  that  its  basic  human  rights  would  be  protected  by  special  privileges — 
the  privilege  of  having  been  a veteran  of  World  War  I,  the  child  of  a veteran, 
the  proud  son  of  a father  killed  in  action.  It  looked  as  though  the  annihila- 
tion of  all  individuals  of  Jewish  origin  was  being  preceded  by  the  bloodless 
destruction  and  self-dissolution  of  the  Jewish  people,  as  though  the  Jewish 
people  had  owed  its  existence  exclusively  to  other  peoples  and  their  hatred. 

It  is  still  one  of  the  most  moving  aspects  of  Jewish  history  that  the  Jews’ 
active  entry  into  European  history  was  caused  by  their  being  an  inter- 
European,  non-national  element  in  a world  of  growing  or  existing  nations. 
That  this  role  proved  more  lasting  and  more  essential  than  their  function  as 
state  bankers  is  one  of  the  material  reasons  for  the  new  modern  type  of 
Jewish  productivity  in  the  arts  and  sciences.  It  is  not  without  historical 
justice  that  their  downfall  coincided  with  the  ruin  of  a system  and  a political 


THE  nation-state;  the  birth  of  antisemitism 

body  which,  whatever  its  other  defects,  had  needed  and  could  tolerate  a 
purely  European  element. 

The  grandeur  of  this  consistently  European  existence  should  not  be  for- 
gotten because  of  the  many  undoubtedly  less  attractive  aspects  of  Jewish 
history  during  the  last  centuries.  The  few  European  authors  who  have  been 
aware  of  this  aspect  of  the  “Jewish  question”  had  no  special  sympathies  for 
the  Jews,  but  an  unbiased  estimate  of  the  whole  European  situation.  Among 
them  was  Diderot,  the  only  eighteenth-century  French  philosopher  who 
was  not  hostile  to  the  Jews  and  who  recognized  in  them  a useful  link  be- 
tween Europeans  of  different  nationalities;  Wilhelm  von  Humboldt  who, 
witnessing  their  emancipation  through  the  French  Revolution,  remarked 
that  the  Jews  would  lose  their  universality  when  they  were  changed  into 
Frenchmen; 15  and  finally  Friedrich  Nietzsche,  who  out  of  disgust  with 
Bismarck’s  German  Reich  coined  the  word  “good  European,”  which  made 
possible  his  correct  estimate  of  the  significant  role  of  the  Jews  in  European 
history,  and  saved  him  from  falling  into  the  pitfalls  of  cheap  philosemitism 
or  patronizing  “progressive”  attitudes. 

This  evaluation,  though  quite  correct  in  the  description  of  a surface 
phenomenon,  overlooks  the  most  serious  paradox  embodied  in  the  curious 
political  history  of  the  Jews.  Of  all  European  peoples,  the  Jews  had  been 
the  only  one  without  a state  of  their  own  and  had  been,  precisely  for  this 
reason,  so  eager  and  so  suitable  for  alliances  with  governments  and  states 
as  such,  no  matter  what  these  governments  or  states  might  represent.  On 
the  other  hand,  the  Jews  had  no  political  tradition  or  experience,  and  were 
as  little  aware  of  the  tension  between  society  and  state  as  they  were  of  the 
obvious  risks  and  power-possibilities  of  their  new  role.  What  little  knowledge 
or  traditional  practice  they  brought  to  politics  had  its  source  first  in  the 
Roman  Empire,  where  they  had  been  protected,  so  to  speak,  by  the  Roman 
soldier,  and  later,  in  the  Middle  Ages,  when  they  sought  and  received  pro- 
tection against  the  population  and  the  local  rulers  from  remote  monarchical 
and  Church  authorities.  From  these  experiences,  they  had  somehow  drawn 
the  conclusion  that  authority,  and  especially  high  authority,  was  favorable 
to  them  and  that  lower  officials,  and  especially  the  common  people,  were 
dangerous.  This  prejudice,  which  expressed  a definite  historical  truth  but 
no  longer  corresponded  to  new  circumstances,  was  as  deeply  rooted  in  and 
as  unconsciously  shared  by  the  vast  majority  of  Jews  as  corresponding 
prejudices  about  Jews  were  commonly  accepted  by  Gentiles. 

The  history  of  the  relationship  between  Jews  and  governments  is  rich  in 
examples  of  how  quickly  Jewish  bankers  switched  their  allegiance  from  one 

15  Wilhelm  von  Humboldt,  Tagebiicher,  ed.  by  Leitzmann,  Berlin,  1916-1918,  I, 
475. — The  article  “Juif”  of  the  Encyclopedic,  1751-1765,  Vol.  IX,  which  was  prob- 
ably written  by  Diderot:  “Thus  dispersed  in  our  time  . . . [the  Jews]  have  become 
instruments  of  communication  between  the  most  distant  countries.  They  are  like  the 
cogs  and  nails  needed  in  a great  building  in  order  to  join  and  hold  together  all  other 



government  to  the  next  even  after  revolutionary  changes.  It  took  the  French 
Rothschilds  in  1848  hardly  twenty-four  hours  to  transfer  their  services  from 
the  government  of  Louis  Philippe  to  the  new  short-lived  French  Republic 
and  again  to  Napoleon  III.  The  same  process  repeated  itself,  at  a slightly 
slower  pace,  after  the  downfall  of  the  Second  Empire  and  the  establishment 
of  the  Third  Republic.  In  Germany  this  sudden  and  easy  change  was  sym- 
bolized, after  the  revolution  of  1918,  in  the  financial  policies  of  the  War- 
burgs on  one  hand  and  the  shifting  political  ambitions  of  Walter  Rathenau 
on  the  other.16 

More  is  involved  in  this  type  of  behavior  than  the  simple  bourgeois  pat- 
tern which  always  assumes  that  nothing  succeeds  like  success.17  Had  the 
Jews  been  bourgeois  in  the  ordinary  sense  of  the  word,  they  might  have 
gauged  correctly  the  tremendous  power-possibilities  of  their  new  functions, 
and  at  least  have  tried  to  play  that  fictitious  role  of  a secret  world  power 
which  makes  and  unmakes  governments,  which  antisemites  assigned  to  them 
anyway.  Nothing,  however,  could  be  farther  from  the  truth.  The  Jews, 
without  knowledge  of  or  interest  in  power,  never  thought  of  exercising 
more  than  mild  pressure  for  minor  purposes  of  self-defense.  This  lack  of 
ambition  was  later  sharply  resented  by  the  more  assimilated  sons  of  Jewish 
bankers  and  businessmen.  While  some  of  them  dreamed,  like  Disraeli,  of  a 
secret  Jewish  society  to  which  they  might  belong  and  which  never  existed, 
others,  like  Rathenau,  who  happened  to  be  better  informed,  indulged  in 
half-antisemitic  tirades  against  the  wealthy  traders  who  had  neither  power 
nor  social  status. 

This  innocence  has  never  been  quite  understood  by  non-Jewish  statesmen 
or  historians.  On  the  other  hand,  their  detachment  from  power  was  so  much 
taken  for  granted  by  Jewish  representatives  or  writers  that  they  hardly  ever 
mentioned  it  except  to  express  their  surprise  at  the  absurd  suspicions  leveled 
against  them.  In  the  memoirs  of  statesmen  of  the  last  century  many  remarks 
occur  to  the  effect  that  there  won’t  be  a war  because  Rothschild  in  London 
or  Paris  or  Vienna  does  not  want  it.  Even  so  sober  and  reliable  a historian 
as  J.  A.  Hobson  could  state  as  late  as  1905:  “Does  any  one  seriously  sup- 
pose that  a great  war  could  be  undertaken  by  any  European  state,  or  a great 
state  loan  subscribed,  if  the  House  of  Rothschild  and  its  connexions  set  their 
face  against  it?”  18  This  misjudgment  is  as  amusing  in  its  naive  assumption 

16  Walter  Rathenau,  foreign  minister  of  the  Weimar  Republic  in  1921  and  one 
of  the  outstanding  representatives  of  Germany’s  new  will  to  democracy,  had  pro- 
claimed as  late  as  1917  his  “deep  monarchical  convictions,”  according  to  which  only 
an  “anointed”  and  no  “upstart  of  a lucky  career”  should  lead  a country.  See  Von 
kommenden  Dingen,  1917,  p.  247. 

17  This  bourgeois  pattern,  however,  should  not  be  forgotten.  If  it  were  only  a 
matter  of  individual  motives  and  behavior  patterns,  the  methods  of  the  house  of 
Rothschild  certainly  did  not  differ  much  from  those  of  their  Gentile  colleagues.  For 
instance,  Napoleon’s  banker,  Ouvrard,  after  having  provided  the  financial  means  for 
Napoleon’s  hundred  days’  war,  immediately  offered  his  services  to  the  returning 

18  J.  H.  Hobson,  Imperialism , 1905,  p.  57  of  unrevised  1938  edition. 


THE  nation-state;  the  birth  of  antisemitism 

that  everyone  is  like  oneself,  as  Mettemich’s  sincere  belief  that  “the  house 
of  Rothschild  played  a greater  role  in  France  than  any  foreign  government,” 
or  his  confident  prediction  to  the  Viennese  Rothschilds  shortly  before  the 
Austrian  revolution  in  1848:  “If  I should  go  to  the  dogs,  you  would  go 
with  me.”  The  truth  of  that  matter  was  that  the  Rothschilds  had  as  little 
political  idea  as  other  Jewish  bankers  of  what  they  wanted  to  carry  out  in 
France,  to  say  nothing  of  a well-defined  purpose  which  would  even  remotely 
suggest  a war.  On  the  contrary,  like  their  fellow  Jews  they  never  allied 
themselves  with  any  specific  government,  but  rather  with  governments,  with 
authority  as  such.  If  at  this  time  and  later  they  showed  a marked  preference 
for  monarchical  governments  as  against  republics,  it  was  only  because  they 
rightly  suspected  that  republics  were  based  to  a greater  extent  on  the  will 
of  the  people,  which  they  instinctively  mistrusted. 

How  deep  the  Jews’  faith  in  the  state  was,  and  how  fantastic  their  ignorance 
of  actual  conditions  in  Europe,  came  to  light  in  the  last  years  of  the  Weimar 
Republic  when,  already  reasonably  frightened  about  the  future,  the  Jews 
for  once  tried  their  hand  in  politics.  With  the  help  of  a few  non-Jews,  they 
then  founded  that  middle-class  party  which  they  called  “State-party” 
(Staatspartei) , the  very  name  a contradiction  in  terms.  They  were  so  naively 
convinced  that  their  “party,”  supposedly  representing  them  in  political  and 
social  struggle,  ought  to  be  the  state  itself,  that  the  whole  relationship  of 
the  party  to  the  state  never  dawned  upon  them.  If  anybody  had  bothered  to 
take  seriously  this  party  of  respectable  and  bewildered  gentlemen,  he  could 
only  have  concluded  that  loyalty  at  any  price  was  a fagade  behind  which 
sinister  forces  plotted  to  take  over  the  state. 

Just  as  the  Jews  ignored  completely  the  growing  tension  between  state  and 
society,  they  were  also  the  last  to  be  aware  that  circumstances  had  forced 
them  into  the  center  of  the  conflict.  They  therefore  never  knew  how  to 
evaluate  antisemitism,  or  rather  never  recognized  the  moment  when  social 
discrimination  changed  into  a political  argument.  For  more  than  a hundred 
years,  antisemitism  had  slowly  and  gradually  made  its  way  into  almost  all 
social  strata  in  almost  all  European  countries  until  it  emerged  suddenly 
as  the  one  issue  upon  which  an  almost  unified  opinion  could  be  achieved. 
The  law  according  to  which  this  process  developed  was  simple:  each  class 
of  society  which  came  into  a conflict  with  the  state  as  such  became  anti- 
semitic  because  the  only  social  group  which  seemed  to  represent  the  state 
were  the  Jews.  And  the  only  class  which  proved  almost  immune  from  anti- 
semitic  propaganda  were  the  workers  who,  absorbed  in  the  class  struggle 
and  equipped  with  a Marxist  explanation  of  history,  never  came  into  direct 
conflict  with  the  state  but  only  with  another  class  of  society,  the  bourgeoisie, 
which  the  Jews  certainly  did  not  represent,  and  of  which  they  were  never  a 
significant  part. 

The  political  emancipation  of  the  Jews  at  the  turn  of  the  eighteenth 
century  in  some  countries,  and  its  discussion  in  the  rest  of  Central  and 
Western  Europe,  resulted  first  of  all  in  a decisive  change  in  their  attitude 



toward  the  state,  which  was  somehow  symbolized  in  the  rise  of  the  house  of 
Rothschild.  The  new  policy  of  these  court  Jews,  who  were  the  first  to  become 
full-fledged  state  bankers,  came  to  light  when  they  were  no  longer  content 
to  serve  one  particular  prince  or  government  through  their  international 
relationships  with  court  Jews  of  other  countries,  but  decided  to  establish 
themselves  internationally  and  serve  simultaneously  and  concurrently  the 
governments  in  Germany,  France,  Great  Britain,  Italy  and  Austria.  To  a 
large  extent,  this  unprecedented  course  was  a reaction  of  the  Rothschilds 
to  the  dangers  of  real  emancipation,  which,  together  with  equality,  threat- 
ened to  nationalize  the  Jewries  of  the  respective  countries,  and  to  destroy 
the  very  inter-European  advantages  on  which  the  position  of  Jewish  bankers 
had  rested.  Old  Meyer  Amschel  Rothschild,  the  founder  of  the  house,  must 
have  recognized  that  the  inter-European  status  of  Jews  was  no  longer  secure 
and  that  he  had  better  try  to  realize  this  unique  international  position  in  his 
own  family.  The  establishment  of  his  five  sons  in  the  five  financial  capitals 
of  Europe — Frankfurt,  Paris,  London,  Naples  and  Vienna — was  his  ingeni- 
ous way  out  of  the  embarrassing  emancipation  of  the  Jews.19 

The  Rothschilds  had  entered  upon  their  spectacular  career  as  the  financial 
servants  of  the  Kurfiirst  of  Hessen,  one  of  the  outstanding  moneylenders  of 
his  time,  who  taught  them  business  practice  and  provided  them  with  many 
of  their  customers.  Their  great  advantage  was  that  they  lived  in  Frankfurt, 
the  only  great  urban  center  from  which  Jews  had  never  been  expelled  and 
where  they  formed  nearly  10  per  cent  of  the  city’s  population  at  the  begin- 
ning of  the  nineteenth  century.  The  Rothschilds  started  as  court  Jews  without 
being  under  the  jurisdiction  of  either  a prince  or  the  Free  City,  but  directly 
under  the  authority  of  the  distant  Emperor  in  Vienna.  They  thus  combined 
all  the  advantages  of  the  Jewish  status  in  the  Middle  Ages  with  those  of 
their  own  times,  and  were  much  less  dependent  upon  nobility  or  other  local 
authorities  than  any  of  their  fellow  court  Jews.  The  later  financial  activities 
of  the  house,  the  tremendous  fortune  they  amassed,  and  their  even  greater 
symbolic  fame  since  the  early  nineteenth  century,  are  sufficiently  well  known.20 
They  entered  the  scene  of  big  business  during  the  last  years  of  the  Napoleonic 
wars  when — from  1811  to  1816 — almost  half  the  English  subventions  to 
the  Continental  powers  went  through  their  hands.  When  after  the  defeat 
of  Napoleon  the  Continent  needed  great  government  loans  everywhere  for 
the  reorganization  of  its  state  machines  and  the  erection  of  financial  struc- 
tures on  the  model  of  the  Bank  of  England,  the  Rothschilds  enjoyed  almost  a 
monopoly  in  the  handling  of  state  loans.  This  lasted  for  three  generations 

18  How  well  the  Rothschilds  knew  the  sources  of  their  strength  is  shown  in  their 
early  house  law  according  to  which  daughters  and  their  husbands  were  eliminated 
from  the  business  of  the  house.  The  girls  were  allowed,  and  after  1871,  even  en- 
couraged, to  marry  into  the  non-Jewish  aristocracy;  the  male  descendants  had  to 
marry  Jewish  girls  exclusively,  and  if  possible  (in  the  first  generation  this  was  gen- 
erally the  case)  members  of  the  family. 

20  See  especially  Egon  Cesar  Conte  Corti,  The  Rise  of  the  House  of  Rothschild, 
New  York,  1927. 


THE  nation-state;  the  birth  of  antisemitism 

during  which  they  succeeded  in  defeating  all  Jewish  and  non-Jewish  com- 
petitors in  the  field.  “The  House  of  Rothschild  became,”  as  Capefigue  put 
it,21  “the  chief  treasurer  of  the  Holy  Alliance.” 

The  international  establishment  of  the  house  of  Rothschild  and  its  sudden 
rise  above  all  other  Jewish  bankers  changed  the  whole  structure  of  Jewish 
state  business.  Gone  was  the  accidental  development,  unplanned  and  un- 
organized, when  individual  Jews  shrewd  enough  to  take  advantage  of  a 
unique  opportunity  frequently  rose  to  the  heights  of  great  wealth  and  fell 
to  the  depths  of  poverty  in  one  man’s  lifetime;  when  such  a fate  hardly 
touched  the  destinies  of  the  Jewish  people  as  a whole  except  insofar  as 
such  Jews  sometimes  had  acted  as  protectors  and  petitioners  for  distant 
communities;  when,  no  matter  how  numerous  the  wealthy  moneylenders  or 
how  influential  the  individual  court  Jews,  there  was  no  sign  of  the  develop- 
ment of  a well-defined  Jewish  group  which  collectively  enjoyed  specific 
privileges  and  rendered  specific  services.  It  was  precisely  the  Rothschilds’ 
monopoly  on  the  issuance  of  government  loans  which  made  it  possible  and 
necessary  to  draw  on  Jewish  capital  at  large,  to  direct  a great  percentage  of 
Jewish  wealth  into  the  channels  of  state  business,  and  which  thereby  pro- 
vided the  natural  basis  for  a new  inter-European  cohesiveness  of  Central 
and  Western  European  Jewry.  What  in  the  seventeenth  and  eighteenth 
centuries  had  been  an  unorganized  connection  among  individual  Jews  of 
different  countries,  now  became  the  more  systematic  disposition  of  these 
scattered  opportunities  by  a single  firm,  physically  present  in  all  important 
European  capitals,  in  constant  contact  with  all  sections  of  the  Jewish  people, 
and  in  complete  possession  of  all  pertinent  information  and  all  opportunities 
for  organization.22 

The  exclusive  position  of  the  house  of  Rothschild  in  the  Jewish  world 
replaced  to  a certain  extent  the  old  bonds  of  religious  and  spiritual  tradition 
whose  gradual  loosening  under  the  impact  of  Western  culture  for  the  first 
time  threatened  the  very  existence  of  the  Jewish  people.  To  the  outer 
world,  this  one  family  also  became  a symbol  of  the  working  reality  of  Jew- 
ish internationalism  in  a world  of  nation-states  and  nationally  organized 
peoples.  Where,  indeed,  was  there  better  proof  of  the  fantastic  concept  of 
a Jewish  world  government  than  in  this  one  family,  nationals  of  five  different 
countries,  prominent  everywhere,  in  close  co-operation  with  at  least  three 
different  governments  (the  French,  the  Austrian,  and  the  British),  whose 
frequent  conflicts  never  for  a moment  shook  the  solidarity  of  interest  of 
their  state  bankers?  No  propaganda  could  have  created  a symbol  more 
effective  for  political  purposes  than  the  reality  itself. 

The  popular  notion  that  the  Jews — in  contrast  to  other  peoples — were 
tied  together  by  the  supposedly  closer  bonds  of  blood  and  family  ties,  was 
to  a large  extent  stimulated  by  the  reality  of  this  one  family,  which  virtually 

21  Capefigue,  op.  cit. 

22  It  has  never  been  possible  to  ascertain  the  extent  to  which  the  Rothschilds  used 
Jewish  capital  for  their  own  business  transactions  and  how  far  their  control  of  Jew- 
'*h  hankers  went.  The  family  has  never  permitted  a scholar  to  work  in  its  archives. 



represented  the  whole  economic  and  political  significance  of  the  Jewish 
people.  The  fateful  consequence  was  that  when,  for  reasons  which  had 
nothing  to  do  with  the  Jewish  question,  race  problems  came  to  the  fore- 
ground of  the  political  scene,  the  Jews  at  once  fitted  all  ideologies  and 
doctrines  which  defined  a people  by  blood  ties  and  family  characteristics. 

Yet  another,  less  accidental,  fact  accounts  for  this  image  of  the  Jewish 
people.  In  the  preservation  of  the  Jewish  people  the  family  had  played  a far 
greater  role  than  in  any  Western  political  or  social  body  except  the  nobility. 
Family  ties  were  among  the  most  potent  and  stubborn  elements  with  which 
the  Jewish  people  resisted  assimilation  and  dissolution.  Just  as  declining 
European  nobility  strengthened  its  marriage  and  house  laws,  so  Western 
Jewry  became  all  the  more  family-conscious  in  the  centuries  of  their  spiritual 
and  religious  dissolution.  Without  the  old  hope  for  Messianic  redemption 
and  the  firm  ground  of  traditional  folkways,  Western  Jewry  became  over- 
conscious of  the  fact  that  their  survival  had  been  achieved  in  an  alien  and 
often  hostile  environment.  They  began  to  look  upon  the  inner  family  circle  as 
a kind  of  last  fortress  and  to  behave  toward  members  of  their  own  group 
as  though  they  were  members  of  a big  family.  In  other  words,  the  anti- 
semitic  picture  of  the  Jewish  people  as  a family  closely  knit  by  blood  ties 
had  something  in  common  with  the  Jews’  own  picture  of  themselves. 

This  situation  was  an  important  factor  in  the  earl};  rise  and  continuous 
growth  of  antisemitism  in  the  nineteenth  century.  Which  group  of  people 
would  turn  antisemitic  in  a given  country  at  a given  historical  moment  de- 
pended exclusively  upon  general  circumstances  which  made  them  ready  for 
a violent  antagonism  to  their  government.  But  the  remarkable  similarity  of 
arguments  and  images  which  time  and  again  were  spontaneously  reproduced 
have  an  intimate  relationship  with  the  truth  they  distort.  We  find  the  Jews 
always  represented  as  an  international  trade  organization,  a world-wide 
family  concern  with  identical  interests  everywhere,  a secret  force  behind 
the  throne  which  degrades  all  visible  governments  into  mere  fagade,  or  into 
marionettes  whose  strings  are  manipulated  from  behind  the  scenes.  Because 
of  their  close  relationship  to  state  sources  of  power,  the  Jews  were  invariably 
identified  with  power,  and  because  of  their  aloofness  from  society  and  con- 
centration upon  the  closed  circle  of  the  family,  they  were  invariably  sus- 
pected of  working  for  the  destruction  of  all  social  structures. 

II:  Early  Antisemitism 

it  is  an  obvious,  if  frequently  forgotten,  rule  that  anti-Jewish  feeling  ac- 
quires political  relevance  only  when  it  can  combine  with  a major  political 
issue,  or  when  Jewish  group  interests  come  into  open  conflict  with  those 
of  a major  class  in  society.  Modern  antisemitism,  as  we  know  it  from 
Central  and  Western  European  countries,  had  political  rather  than  eco- 
nomic causes,  while  complicated  class  conditions  produced  the  violent 


THE  nation-state;  the  birth  of  antisemitism 

popular  hatred  of  Jews  in  Poland  and  Rumania.  There,  due  to  the  inability 
of  the  governments  to  solve  the  land  question  and  give  the  nation-state 
a minimum  of  equality  through  liberation  of  the  peasants,  the  feudal 
aristocracy  succeeded  not  only  in  maintaining  its  political  dominance  but 
also  in  preventing  the  rise  of  a normal  middle  class.  The  Jews  of  these 
countries,  strong  in  number  and  weak  in  every  other  respect,  seemingly 
fulfilled  some  of  the  functions  of  the  middle  class,  because  they  were  mostly 
shopkeepers  and  traders  and  because  as  a group  they  stood  between  the  big 
landowners  and  the  propertyless  classes.  Small  property  holders,  however, 
can  exist  as  well  in  a feudal  as  in  a capitalist  economy.  The  Jews,  here  as 
elsewhere,  were  unable  or  unwilling  to  develop  along  industrial  capitalist 
lines,  so  that  the  net  result  of  their  activities  was  a scattered,  inefficient 
organization  of  consumption  without  an  adequate  system  of  production. 
The  Jewish  positions  were  an  obstacle  for  a normal  capitalistic  development 
because  they  looked  as  though  they  were  the  only  ones  from  which  economic 
advancement  might  be  expected  without  being  capable  of  fulfilling  this  ex- 
pectation. Because  of  their  appearance,  Jewish  interests  were  felt  to  be  in 
conflict  with  those  sections  of  the  population  from  which  a middle  class 
could  normally  have  developed.  The  governments,  on  the  other  hand,  tried 
halfheartedly  to  encourage  a middle  class  without  liquidating  the  nobility 
and  big  landowners.  Their  only  serious  attempt  was  economic  liquidation 
of  the  Jews — partly  as  a concession  to  public  opinion,  and  partly  because 
the  Jews  were  actually  still  a part  of  the  old  feudal  order.  For  centuries 
they  had  been  middlemen  between  the  nobility  and  peasantry;  now  they 
formed  a middle  class  without  fulfilling  its  productive  functions  and  were 
indeed  one  of  the  elements  that  stood  in  the  way  of  industrialization  and 
capitalization.23  These  Eastern  European  conditions,  however,  although 
they  constituted  the  essence  of  the  Jewish  mass  question,  are  of  little  im- 
portance in  our  context.  Their  political  significance  was  limited  to  backward 
countries  where  the  ubiquitous  hatred  of  Jews  made  it  almost  useless  as  a 
weapon  for  specific  purposes. 

Antisemitism  first  flared  up  in  Prussia  immediately  after  the  defeat  by 
Napoleon  in  1807,  when  the  “Reformers”  changed  the  political  structure 
so  that  the  nobility  lost  its  privileges  and  the  middle  classes  won  their  free- 
dom to  develop.  This  reform,  a “revolution  from  above,”  changed  the 
half-feudal  structure  of  Prussia’s  enlightened  despotism  into  a more  or  less 
modern  nation-state  whose  final  stage  was  the  German  Reich  of  1871. 

Although  a majority  of  the  Berlin  bankers  of  the  time  were  Jews,  the 
Prussian  reforms  did  not  require  any  considerable  financial  help  from  them. 
The  outspoken  sympathies  of  the  Prussian  reformers,  their  advocacy  of 
Jewish  emancipation,  was  the  consequence  of  the  new  equality  of  all  citizens, 
the  abolition  of  privilege,  and  the  introduction  of  free  trade.  They  were  not 
interested  in  the  preservation  of  Jews  as  Jews  for  special  purposes.  Their 

23  James  Parkes,  The  Emergence  of  the  Jewish  Problem,  1878-1939,  1946,  discusses 
these  conditions  briefly  and  without  bias  in  chapters  iv  and  vi. 



reply  to  the  argument  that  under  conditions  of  equality  “the  Jews  might 
cease  to  exist”  would  always  have  been:  “Let  them.  How  does  this  matter 
to  a government  which  asks  only  that  they  become  good  citizens?”  24  Emanci- 
pation, moreover,  was  relatively  inoffensive,  for  Prussia  had  just  lost  the 
eastern  provinces  which  had  a large  and  poor  Jewish  population.  The 
emancipation  decree  of  1812  concerned  only  those  wealthy  and  useful 
Jewish  groups  who  were  already  privileged  with  most  civic  rights  and  who, 
through  the  general  abolition  of  privileges,  would  have  suffered  a severe  loss 
in  civil  status.  For  these  groups,  emancipation  meant  not  much  more  than 
a general  legal  affirmation  of  the  status  quo. 

But  the  sympathies  of  the  Prussian  reformers  for  the  Jews  were  more  than 
the  logical  consequence  of  their  general  political  aspirations.  When,  almost 
a decade  later  and  in  the  midst  of  rising  antisemitism,  Wilhelm  von  Hum- 
boldt declared:  “I  love  the  Jews  really  only  eti  masse ; en  detail  I rather  avoid 
them,”  25  he  stood  of  course  in  open  opposition  to  the  prevailing  fashion, 
which  favored  individual  Jews  and  despised  the  Jewish  people.  A true 
democrat,  he  wanted  to  liberate  an  oppressed  people  and  not  bestow  privi- 
leges upon  individuals.  But  this  view  was  also  in  the  tradition  of  the  old 
Prussian  government  officials,  whose  consistent  insistence  throughout  the 
eighteenth  century  upon  better  conditions  and  improved  education  for 
Jews  have  frequently  been  recognized.  Their  support  was  not  motivated  by 
economic  or  state  reasons  alone,  but  by  a natural  sympathy  for  the  only 
social  group  that  also  stood  outside  the  social  body  and  within  the  sphere 
of  the  state,  albeit  for  entirely  different  reasons.  The  education  of  a civil 
service  whose  loyalty  belonged  to  the  state  and  was  independent  of  change 
in  government,  and  which  had  severed  its  class  ties,  was  one  of  the  out- 
standing achievements  of  the  old  Prussian  state.  These  officials  were  a de- 
cisive group  in  eighteenth-century  Prussia,  and  the  actual  predecessors  of 
the  Reformers;  they  remained  the  backbone  of  the  state  machine  all  through 
the  nineteenth  century,  although  they  lost  much  of  their  influence  to  the 
aristocracy  after  the  Congress  of  Vienna.26 

Through  the  attitude  of  the  Reformers  and  especially  through  the  emanci- 
pation edict  of  1812,  the  special  interests  of  the  state  in  the  Jews  became 
manifest  in  a curious  way.  The  old  frank  recognition  of  their  usefulness  as 
Jews  (Frederick  II  of  Prussia  exclaimed,  when  he  heard  of  possible  mass- 
conversion:  “I  hope  they  won’t  do  such  a devilish  thing!”)  27  was  gone. 
Emancipation  was  granted  in  the  name  of  a principle,  and  any  allusion  to 

24  Christian  Wilhelm  Dohm,  Ober  die  biirgerliche  Verbesserung  der  Juden,  Berlin 
and  Stettin,  1781,  I,  174. 

25  Wilhelm  und  Caroline  von  Humboldt  in  ihren  Brief  en,  Berlin,  1900,  V,  236. 

26  For  an  excellent  description  of  these  civil  servants  who  were  not  essentially 
different  in  different  countries,  see  Henri  Pirenne,  A History  of  Europe  from  the  In- 
vasions to  the  XVI  Century,  London,  1939,  pp.  361-362:  “Without  class  prejudices 
and  hostile  to  the  privileges  of  the  great  nobles  who  despised  them,  ...  it  was  not 
the  King  who  spoke  through  them,  but  the  anonymous  monarchy,  superior  to  all, 
subduing  all  to  its  power.” 

27  See  Kleines  Jahrbuch  des  Niitzlichen  und  Angenehmen  fur  Israeliten , 1847. 

THE  nation-state;  the  birth  of  antisemitism 


special  Jewish  services  would  have  been  sacrilege,  according  to  the  mentality 
of  the  time.  The  special  conditions  which  had  led  to  emancipation,  though 
well  known  to  everybody  concerned,  were  now  hidden  as  if  they  were  a 
great  and  terrible  secret.  The  edict  itself,  on  the  other  hand,  was  conceived 
as  the  last  and,  in  a sense,  the  most  shining  achievement  of  change  from  a 
feudal  state  into  a nation-state  and  a society  where  henceforth  there  would 
be  no  special  privileges  whatsoever. 

Among  the  naturally  bitter  reactions  of  the  aristocracy,  the  class  that  was 
hardest  hit,  was  a sudden  and  unexpected  outburst  of  antisemitism.  Its  most 
articulate  spokesman,  Ludwig  von  der  Marwitz  (prominent  among  the 
founders  of  a conservative  ideology),  submitted  a lengthy  petition  to  the 
government  in  which  he  said  that  the  Jews  would  now  be  the  only  group 
enjoying  special  advantages,  and  spoke  of  the  “transformation  of  the  old 
awe-inspiring  Prussian  monarchy  into  a new-fangled  Jew-state.”  The  political 
attack  was  accompanied  by  a social  boycott  which  changed  the  face  of 
Berlin  society  almost  overnight.  For  aristocrats  had  been  among  the  first 
to  establish  friendly  social  relationship  with  Jews  and  had  made  famous 
those  salons  of  Jewish  hostesses  at  the  turn  of  the  century,  where  a truly 
mixed  society  gathered  for  a brief  time.  To  a certain  extent,  it  is  true,  this 
lack  of  prejudice  was  the  result  of  the  services  rendered  by  the  Jewish 
moneylender  who  for  centuries  had  been  excluded  from  all  greater  business 
transactions  and  found  his  only  opportunity  in  the  economically  un- 
productive and  insignificant  but  socially  important  loans  to  people  who  had 
a tendency  to  live  beyond  their  means.  Nevertheless,  it  is  remarkable  that 
social  relationships  survived  when  the  absolute  monarchies  with  their  greater 
financial  possibilities  had  made  the  private  loan  business  and  the  individual 
small  court  Jew  a thing  of  the  past.  A nobleman’s  natural  resentment  against 
losing  a valuable  source  of  help  in  emergencies  made  him  want  to  marry 
a Jewish  girl  with  a rich  father  rather  than  hate  the  Jewish  people. 

Nor  was  the  outburst  of  aristocratic  antisemitism  the  result  of  a closer 
contact  between  Jews  and  nobility.  On  the  contrary,  they  had  in  common 
an  instinctive  opposition  to  the  new  values  of  the  middle  classes,  and  one 
that  sprang  from  very  similar  sources.  In  Jewish  as  well  as  in  noble  families, 
the  individual  was  regarded  first  of  all  as  a member  of  a family;  his  duties 
were  first  of  all  determined  by  the  family  which  transcended  the  life  and 
importance  of  the  individual.  Both  were  a-national  and  inter-European, 
and  each  understood  the  other’s  way  of  life  in  which  national  allegiance 
was  secondary  to  loyalty  to  a family  which  more  often  than  not  was  scattered 
all  over  Europe.  They  shared  a conception  that  the  present  is  nothing  more 
than  an  insignificant  link  in  the  chain  of  past  and  future  generations.  Anti- 
Jewish  liberal  writers  did  not  fail  to  point  out  this  curious  similarity  of  prin- 
ciples, and  they  concluded  that  perhaps  one  could  get  rid  of  nobility  only  by 
first  getting  rid  of  the  Jews,  and  this  not  because  of  their  financial  connections 
but  because  both  were  considered  to  be  a hindrance  to  the  true  development 
of  that  “innate  personality,”  that  ideology  of  self-respect,  which  the  liberal 



middle  classes  employed  in  their  fight  against  the  concepts  of  birth,  family, 
and  heritage. 

These  pro-Jewish  factors  make  it  all  the  more  significant  that  the  aristo- 
crats started  the  long  line  of  antisemitic  political  argumentation.  Neither 
economic  ties  nor  social  intimacy  carried  any  weight  in  a situation  where 
aristocracy  openly  opposed  the  egalitarian  nation-state.  Socially,  the  attack 
on  the  state  identified  the  Jews  with  the  government;  despite  the  fact  that  the 
middle  classes,  economically  and  socially,  reaped  the  real  gains  in  the 
reforms,  politically  they  were  hardly  blamed  and  suffered  the  old  contemptu- 
ous aloofness. 

After  the  Congress  of  Vienna,  when  during  the  long  decades  of  peaceful 
reaction  under  the  Holy  Alliance,  Prussian  nobility  had  won  back  much  of 
its  influence  on  the  state  and  temporarily  become  even  more  prominent  than 
it  had  ever  been  in  the  eighteenth  century,  aristocratic  antisemitism  changed 
at  once  into  mild  discrimination  without  further  political  significance.28  At 
the  same  time,  with  the  help  of  the  romantic  intellectuals,  conservatism 
reached  its  full  development  as  one  of  the  political  ideologies  which  in  Ger- 
many adopted  a very  characteristic  and  ingeniously  equivocal  attitude  toward 
the  Jews.  From  then  on  the  nation-state,  equipped  with  conservative  argu- 
ments, drew  a distinct  line  between  Jews  who  were  needed  and  wanted  and 
those  who  were  not.  Under  the  pretext  of  the  essential  Christian  character 
of  the  state — what  could  have  been  more  alien  to  the  enlightened  despots! — 
the  growing  Jewish  intelligentsia  could  be  openly  discriminated  against  with- 
out harming  the  affairs  of  bankers  and  businessmen.  This  kind  of  discrimina- 
tion which  tried  to  close  the  universities  to  Jews  by  excluding  them  from 
the  civil  services  had  the  double  advantage  of  indicating  that  the  nation-state 
valued  special  services  higher  than  equality,  and  of  preventing,  or  at  least 
postponing,  the  birth  of  a new  group  of  Jews  who  were  of  no  apparent  use 
to  the  state  and  even  likely  to  be  assimilated  into  society.29  When,  in  the 
eighties,  Bismarck  went  to  considerable  trouble  to  protect  the  Jews  against 
Stoecker’s  antisemitic  propaganda,  he  said  expressis  verbis  that  he  wanted 
to  protest  only  against  the  attacks  upon  “moneyed  Jewry  . . . whose 
interests  are  tied  to  the  conservation  of  our  state  institutions”  and  that  his 
friend  Bleichroeder,  the  Prussian  banker,  did  not  complain  about  attacks  on 
Jews  in  general  (which  he  might  have  overlooked)  but  on  rich  Jews.30 

28  When  the  Prussian  Government  submitted  a new  emancipation  law  to  the 
Vereinigte  Landtage  in  1847,  nearly  all  members  of  the  high  aristocracy  favored 
complete  Jewish  emancipation,  See  I.  Elbogen,  Geschichte  der  Juden  in  Deutschland, 
Berlin,  1935,  p.  244. 

29  This  was  the  reason  why  Prussian  kings  were  so  very  much  concerned  with 
the  strictest  conservation  of  Jewish  customs  and  religious  rituals.  In  1823  Frederick 
William  III  prohibited  “the  slightest  renovations,”  and  his  successor,  Frederick  Wil- 
liam IV,  openly  declared  that  “the  state  must  not  do  anything  which  could  further  an 
amalgamation  between  the  Jews  and  the  other  inhabitants”  of  his  kingdom.  Elbogen, 
op.  c/7.,  pp.  223,  234. 

30  In  a letter  to  Kultusminister  v.  Puttkammer  in  October,  1880.  See  also  Herbert 
von  Bismarck’s  letter  of  November,  1880,  to  Tiedemann.  Both  letters  in  Walter 

THE  nation-state;  the  birth  of  antisemitism 


The  seeming  equivocation  with  which  government  officials  on  the  one 
hand  protested  against  equality  (especially  professional  equality)  for  the 
Jews,  or  complained  somewhat  later  about  Jewish  influence  in  the  press 
and  yet,  on  the  other,  sincerely  “wished  them  well  in  every  respect,”  31  was 
much  more  suited  to  the  interests  of  the  state  than  the  earlier  zeal  of  the 
reformer.  After  all,  the  Congress  of  Vienna  had  returned  to  Prussia  the 
provinces  in  which  the  poor  Jewish  masses  had  lived  for  centuries,  and 
nobody  but  a few  intellectuals  who  dreamed  of  the  French  Revolution  and 
the  Rights  of  Man  had  ever  thought  of  giving  them  the  same  status  as  their 
wealthy  brethren — who  certainly  were  the  last  to  clamor  for  an  equality  by 
which  they  could  only  lose.32  They  knew  as  well  as  anybody  else  that  “every 
legal  or  political  measure  for  the  emancipation  of  the  Jews  must  necessarily 
lead  to  a deterioration  of  their  civic  and  social  situation.”  33  And  they  knew 
better  than  anybody  else  how  much  their  power  depended  upon  their  posi- 
tion and  prestige  within  the  Jewish  communities.  So  they  could  hardly  adopt 
any  other  policy  but  to  “endeavor  to  get  more  influence  for  themselves, 
and  keep  their  fellow  Jews  in  their  national  isolation,  pretending  that  this 
separation  is  part  of  their  religion.  Why?  . . . Because  the  others  should 
depend  upon  them  even  more,  so  that  they,  as  unsere  Leute,  could  be  used 
exclusively  by  those  in  power.”  34  And  it  did  turn  out  that  in  the  twentieth 
century,  when  emancipation  was  for  the  first  time  an  accomplished  fact  for 
the  Jewish  masses,  the  power  of  the  privileged  Jews  had  disappeared. 

Thus  a perfect  harmony  of  interests  was  established  between  the  powerful 
Jews  and  the  state.  Rich  Jews  wanted  and  obtained  control  over  their  fellow 
Jews  and  segregation  from  non- Jewish  society;  the  state  could  combine  a 
policy  of  benevolence  toward  rich  Jews  with  legal  discrimination  against 
the  Jewish  intelligentsia  and  furtherance  of  social  segregation,  as  expressed 
in  the  conservative  theory  of  the  Christian  essence  of  the  state. 

While  antisemitism  among  the  nobility  remained  without  political  conse- 
quence and  subsided  quickly  in  the  decades  of  the  Holy  Alliance,  liberals 

Frank,  Hofprediger  Adolf  Stoecker  und  die  christlich-soziale  Bewegung,  1928,  pp. 
304,  305. 

31  August  Varnhagen  comments  on  a remark  made  by  Frederick  William  IV.  “The 
king  was  asked  what  he  intended  to  do  with  the  Jews.  He  replied:  ‘I  wish  them  well  in 
every  respect,  but  I want  them  to  feel  that  they  are  Jews.’  These  words  provide 
a key  to  many  things.”  Tagebiicher,  Leipzig,  1861,  II,  113. 

32  That  Jewish  emancipation  would  have  to  be  carried  out  against  the  desires  of 
Jewish  representatives  was  common  knowledge  in  the  eighteenth  century.  Mirabeau 
argued  before  the  Assemblee  Nationale  in  1789:  “Gentlemen,  is  it  because  the  Jews 
don’t  want  to  be  citizens  that  you  don’t  proclaim  them  citizens?  In  a government  like 
the  one  you  now  establish,  all  men  must  be  men;  you  must  expel  all  those  who  are 
not  or  who  refuse  to  become  men.”  The  attitude  of  German  Jews  in  the  early  nine- 
teenth century  is  reported  by  J.  M.  Jost,  Neuere  Geschichte  der  lsraeliten.  1815-1845 , 
Berlin,  1846,  Band  10. 

33  Adam  Mueller  (see  Ausgewahlte  Abhandlungen,  ed.  by  J.  Baxa,  Jena,  1921, 
p.  215)  in  a letter  to  Metternich  in  1815. 

34  H.  E.  G.  Paulus,  Die  jiidische  Nationalabsonderung  nach  Ursprung,  Folgen  und 
Besserungsmitteln,  1831. 



and  radical  intellectuals  inspired  and  led  a new  movement  immediately  after 
the  Congress  of  Vienna.  Liberal  opposition  to  Mctternich’s  police  regime 
on  the  continent  and  bitter  attacks  on  the  reactionary  Prussian  government 
led  quickly  to  antisemitic  outbursts  and  a veritable  flood  of  anti-Jewish 
pamphlets.  Precisely  because  they  were  much  less  candid  and  outspoken 
in  their  opposition  to  the  government  than  the  nobleman  Marwitz  had 
been  a decade  before,  they  attacked  the  Jews  more  than  the  government. 
Concerned  mainly  with  equal  opportunity  and  resenting  most  of  all  the  re- 
vival of  aristocratic  privileges  which  limited  their  admission  to  the  public 
services,  they  introduced  into  the  discussion  the  distinction  between  indi- 
vidual Jews,  “our  brethren,”  and  Jewry  as  a group,  a distinction  which 
from  then  on  was  to  become  the  trademark  of  leftist  antisemitism.  Although 
they  did  not  fully  understand  why  and  how  the  government,  in  its  enforced 
independence  from  society,  preserved  and  protected  the  Jews  as  a separate 
group,  they  knew  well  enough  that  some  political  connection  existed  and 
that  the  Jewish  question  was  more  than  a problem  of  individual  Jews  and 
human  tolerance.  They  coined  the  new  nationalist  phrases  “state  within  the 
state,”  and  “nation  within  the  nation.”  Certainly  wrong  in  the  first  instance, 
because  the  Jews  had  no  political  ambitions  of  their  own  and  were  merely 
the  only  social  group  that  was  unconditionally  loyal  to  the  state,  they  were 
half  right  in  the  second,  because  the  Jews,  taken  as  a social  and  not  as  a 
political  body,  actually  did  form  a separate  group  within  the  nation.35 

In  Prussia,  though  not  in  Austria  or  in  France,  this  radical  antisemitism 
was  almost  as  short-lived  and  inconsequential  as  the  earlier  antisemitism  of 
nobility.  The  radicals  were  more  and  more  absorbed  by  the  liberalism  of 
the  economically  rising  middle  classes,  which  all  over  Germany  some  twenty 
years  later  clamored  in  their  diets  for  Jewish  emancipation  and  for  realiza- 
tion of  political  equality.  It  established,  however,  a certain  theoretical  and 
even  literary  tradition  whose  influence  can  be  recognized  in  the  famous  anti- 
Jewish  writings  of  the  young  Marx,  who  so  frequently  and  unjustly  has  been 
accused  of  antisemitism.  That  the  Jew,  Karl  Marx,  could  write  the  same  way 
these  anti-Jewish  radicals  did  is  only  proof  of  how  little  this  kind  of  anti- 
Jewish  argument  had  in  common  with  full-fledged  antisemitism.  Marx  as 
an  individual  Jew  was  as  little  embarrassed  by  these  arguments  against 
“Jewry”  as,  for  instance,  Nietzsche  was  by  his  arguments  against  Germany. 
Marx,  it  is  true,  in  his  later  years  never  wrote  or  uttered  an  opinion  on  the 
Jewish  question;  but  this  is  hardly  due  to  any  fundamental  change  of  mind. 
His  exclusive  preoccupation  with  class  struggle  as  a phenomenon  inside 
society,  with  the  problems  of  capitalist  production  in  which  Jews  were  not 
involved  as  either  buyers  or  sellers  of  labor,  and  his  utter  neglect  of  political 
questions,  automatically  prevented  his  further  inspection  of  the  state  struc- 
ture, and  thereby  of  the  role  of  the  Jews.  The  strong  influence  of  Marxism 
on  the  labor  movement  in  Germany  is  among  the  chief  reasons  why  German 

35  For  a clear  and  reliable  account  of  German  antisemitism  in  the  nineteenth 
century  see  Waldemar  Gurian,  “Antisemitism  in  Modern  Germany,”  in  Essays  on 
Anti-Semitism,  ed.  by  K.  S.  Pinson,  1946. 


THE  nation-state;  the  birth  of  antisemitism 

revolutionary  movements  showed  so  few  signs  of  anti-Jewish  sentiment.36 
The  Jews  were  indeed  of  little  or  no  importance  for  the  social  struggles  of 
the  time. 

The  beginnings  of  the  modern  antisemitic  movement  date  back  every- 
where to  the  last  third  of  the  nineteenth  century.  In  Germany,  it  began 
rather  unexpectedly  once  more  among  the  nobility,  whose  opposition  to 
the  state  was  again  aroused  by  the  transformation  of  the  Prussian  monarchy 
into  a fell-fledged  nation-state  after  1871.  Bismarck,  the  actual  founder  of 
the  German  Reich,  had  maintained  close  relations  with  Jews  ever  since  he 
became  Prime  Minister;  now  he  was  denounced  for  being  dependent  upon 
and  accepting  bribes  from  the  Jews.  His  attempt  and  partial  success  in 
abolishing  most  feudal  remnants  in  the  government  inevitably  resulted  in 
conflict  with  the  aristocracy;  in  their  attack  on  Bismarck  they  represented 
him  as  either  an  innocent  victim  or  a paid  agent  of  Bleichroeder.  Actually 
the  relationship  was  the  very  opposite;  Bleichroeder  was  undoubtedly  a 
highly  esteemed  and  well-paid  agent  of  Bismarck.37 

Feudal  aristocracy,  however,  though  still  powerful  enough  to  influence 
public  opinion,  was  in  itself  neither  strong  nor  important  enough  to  start  a 
real  antisemitic  movement  like  the  one  that  began  in  the  eighties.  Their 
spokesman,  Court  Chaplain  Stoecker,  himself  a son  of  lower  middle-class 
parents,  was  a much  less  gifted  representative  of  conservative  interests  than 
his  predecessors,  the  romantic  intellectuals  who  had  formulated  the  main 
tenets  of  a conservative  ideology  some  fifty  years  earlier.  Moreover,  he  dis- 
covered the  usefulness  of  antisemitic  propaganda  not  through  practical  or 
theoretical  considerations  but  by  accident,  when  he,  with  the  help  of  a great 
demagogic  talent,  found  out  it  was  highly  useful  for  filling  otherwise  empty 
halls.  But  not  only  did  he  fail  to  understand  his  own  sudden  successes;  as 
court  chaplain  and  employee  of  both  the  royal  family  and  the  government, 
he  was  hardly  in  a position  to  use  them  properly.  His  enthusiastic  audiences 
were  composed  exclusively  of  lower  middle-class  people,  small  shopkeepers 
and  tradesmen,  artisans  and  old-fashioned  craftsmen.  And  the  anti-Jewish 
sentiments  of  these  people  were  not  yet,  and  certainly  not  exclusively, 
motivated  by  a conflict  with  the  state. 

hi:  The  First  Antisemitic  Parties 

the  simultaneous  rise  of  antisemitism  as  a serious  political  factor  in 
Germany,  Austria,  and  France  in  the  last  twenty  years  of  the  nineteenth  cen- 

36  The  only  leftist  German  antisemite  of  any  importance  was  E.  Duehring  who, 
in  a confused  way,  invented  a naturalistic  explanation  of  a “Jewish  race”  in  his 
Die  Judenfrage  als  Frage  der  Rassenschadlichkeit  jiir  Exist enz,  Sitte  und  Cultur  der 
Volker  mit  einer  weltgeschichtlichen  Antwort,  1880. 

37  For  antisemitic  attacks  on  Bismarck  see  Kurt  Wawrzinek,  Die  Entstehung  der 
deutschen  Antisemitenparteien . 1873-1890 . Historische  Studien,  Heft  168,  1927. 



tury  was  preceded  by  a series  of  financial  scandals  and  fraudulent  affairs 
whose  main  source  was  an  overproduction  of  ready  capital.  In  France  a 
majority  of  Parliament  members  and  an  incredible  number  of  government 
officials  were  soon  so  deeply  involved  in  swindle  and  bribery  that  the  Third 
Republic  was  never  to  recover  the  prestige  it  lost  during  the  first  decades  of 
its  existence;  in  Austria  and  Germany  the  aristocracy  was  among  the  most 
compromised  In  all  three  countries,  Jews  acted  only  as  middlemen,  and  not 
a single  Jewish  house  emerged  with  permanent  wealth  from  the  frauds  of 
the  Panama  Affair  and  the  Griindungsschwindel . 

However,  another  group  of  people  besides  noblemen,  government  officials, 
and  Jews  were  seriously  involved  in  these  fantastic  investments  whose  prom- 
ised profits  were  matched  by  incredible  losses.  This  group  consisted  mainly 
of  the  lower  middle  classes,  which  now  suddenly  turned  antisemitic.  They 
had  been  more  seriously  hurt  than  any  of  the  other  groups:  they  had  risked 
small  savings  and  had  been  permanently  ruined.  There  were  important 
reasons  for  their  gullibility.  Capitalist  expansion  on  the  domestic  scene 
tended  more  and  more  to  liquidate  small  property-holders,  to  whom  it  had 
become  a question  of  life  or  death  to  increase  quickly  the  little  they  had, 
since  they  were  only  too  likely  to  lose  all.  They  were  becoming  aware  that 
if  they  did  not  succeed  in  climbing  upward  into  the  bourgeoisie,  they  might 
sink  down  into  the  proletariat.  Decades  of  general  prosperity  slowed  down 
this  development  so  considerably  (though  it  did  not  change  its  trend)  that 
their  panic  appears  rather  premature.  For  the  time  being,  however,  the 
anxiety  of  the  lower  middle  classes  corresponded  exactly  to  Marx’s  predic- 
tion of  their  rapid  dissolution. 

The  lower  middle  classes,  or  petty  bourgeoisie,  were  the  descendants  of 
the  guilds  of  artisans  and  tradesmen  who  for  centuries  had  been  protected 
against  the  hazards  of  life  by  a closed  system  which  outlawed  competition 
and  was  in  the  last  instance  under  the  protection  of  the  state.  They  conse- 
quently blamed  their  misfortune  upon  the  Manchester  system,  which  had 
exposed  them  to  the  hardships  of  a competitive  society  and  deprived  them 
of  all  special  protection  and  privileges  granted  by  public  authorities.  They 
were,  therefore,  the  first  to  clamor  for  the  “welfare  state,”  which  they  ex- 
pected not  only  to  shield  them  against  emergencies  but  to  keep  them  in  the 
professions  and  callings  they  had  inherited  from  their  families.  Since  an  out- 
standing characteristic  of  the  century  of  free  trade  was  the  access  of  the 
Jews  to  all  professions,  it  was  almost  a matter  of  course  to  think  of  the 
Jews  as  the  representatives  of  the  “applied  system  of  Manchester  carried 
out  to  the  extreme,”  3"  even  though  nothing  was  farther  from  the  truth. 

This  rather  derivative  resentment,  which  we  find  first  in  certain  conserva- 
tive writers  who  occasionally  combined  an  attack  on  the  bourgeoisie  with 
an  attack  on  Jews,  received  a great  stimulus  when  those  who  had  hoped 
for  help  from  the  government  or  gambled  on  miracles  had  to  accept  the 

39  Olio  Glagau,  Dcr  Bankrott  des  Nationalliberalismits  und  die  Reaktion,  Berlin, 
1878.  I he  same  author’s  Dcr  Boerscn-  und  Grucndungsschwindel,  1876,  is  one  of 
the  most  important  antisemitic  pamphlets  of  the  time. 

THE  nation-state;  the  birth  of  antisemitism 


rather  dubious  help  of  bankers.  To  the  small  shopkeeper  the  banker  ap- 
peared to  be  the  same  kind  of  exploiter  as  the  owner  of  a big  industrial 
enterprise  was  to  the  worker.  But  while  the  European  workers,  from  their 
own  experience  and  a Marxist  education  in  economics,  knew  that  the  capi- 
talist filled  the  double  function  of  exploiting  them  and  giving  them  the  op- 
portunity to  produce,  the  small  shopkeeper  had  found  nobody  to  enlighten 
him  about  his  social  and  economic  destiny.  His  predicament  was  even  worse 
than  the  worker’s  and  on  the  basis  of  his  experience  he  considered  the 
banker  a parasite  and  usurer  whom  he  had  to  make  his  silent  partner,  even 
though  this  banker,  in  contrast  to  the  manufacturer,  had  nothing  whatsoever 
to  do  with  his  business.  It  is  not  difficult  to  comprehend  that  a man  who 
put  his  money  solely  and  directly  to  the  use  of  begetting  more  money  can 
be  hated  more  bitterly  than  the  one  who  gets  his  profit  through  a lengthy  and 
involved  process  of  production.  Since  at  that  time  nobody  asked  for  credit 
if  he  could  possibly  help  it — certainly  not  small  tradesmen — bankers  looked 
like  the  exploiters  not  of  working  power  and  productive  capacity,  but  of 
misfortune  and  misery. 

Many  of  these  bankers  were  Jews  and,  even  more  important,  the  general 
figure  of  the  banker  bore  definite  Jewish  traits  for  historical  reasons.  Thus 
the  leftist  movement  of  the  lower  middle  class  and  the  entire  propaganda 
against  banking  capital  turned  more  or  less  antisemitic,  a development  of 
little  importance  in  industrial  Germany  but  of  great  significance  in  France 
and,  to  a lesser  extent,  in  Austria.  For  a while  it  looked  as  though  the  Jews 
had  indeed  for  the  first  time  come  into  direct  conflict  with  another  class 
without  interference  from  the  state.  Within  the  framework  of  the  nation- 
state, in  which  the  function  of  the  government  was  more  or  less  defined  by 
its  ruling  position  above  competing  classes,  such  a clash  might  even  have 
been  a possible,  if  dangerous,  way  to  normalize  the  Jewish  position. 

To  this  social-economic  element,  however,  another  was  quickly  added 
which  in  the  long  run  proved  to  be  more  ominous.  The  position  of  the  Jews 
as  bankers  depended  not  upon  loans  to  small  people  in  distress,  but  pri- 
marily on  the  issuance  of  state  loans.  Petty  loans  were  left  to  the  small  fel- 
lows, who  in  this  way  prepared  themselves  for  the  more  promising  careers 
of  their  wealthier  and  more  honorable  brethren.  The  social  resentment  of 
the  lower  middle  classes  against  the  Jews  turned  into  a highly  explosive 
political  element,  because  these  bitterly  hated  Jews  were  thought  to  be  well 
on  their  way  to  political  power.  Were  they  not  only  too  well  known  for 
their  relationship  with  the  government  in  other  respects?  Social  and  eco- 
nomic hatred,  on  the  other  hand,  reinforced  the  political  argument  with  that 
driving  violence  which  up  to  then  it  had  lacked  completely. 

Friedrich  Engels  once  remarked  that  the  protagonists  of  the  antisemitic 
movement  of  his  time  were  noblemen,  and  its  chorus  the  howling  mob  of  the 
petty  bourgeoisie.  This  is  true  not  only  for  Germany,  but  also  for  Austria’s 
Christian  Socialism  and  France’s  Anti-Dreyfusards.  In  all  these  cases,  the 
aristocracy,  in  a desperate  last  struggle,  tried  to  ally  itself  with  the-  conserva- 
tive forces  of  the  churches — the  Catholic  Church  in  Austria  and  France, 



the  Protestant  Church  in  Germany— under  the  pretext  of  fighting  liberalism 
with  the  weapons  of  Christianity.  The  mob  was  only  a means  to  strengthen 
their  position,  to  give  their  voices  a greater  resonance.  Obviously  they  neither 
could  nor  wanted  to  organize  the  mob,  and  would  dismiss  it  once  their  aim 
was  achieved.  But  they  discovered  that  antisemitic  slogans  were  highly 
effective  in  mobilizing  large  strata  of  the  population. 

The  followers  of  Court  Chaplain  Stoecker  did  not  organize  the  first  anti- 
semitic parties  in  Germany.  Once  the  appeal  of  antisemitic  slogans  had  been 
demonstrated,  radical  antisemites  at  once  separated  themselves  from 
Stoecker’s  Berlin  movement,  went  into  a full-scale  fight  against  the  govern- 
ment, and  founded  parties  whose  representatives  in  the  Reichstag  voted  in 
all  major  domestic  issues  with  the  greatest  opposition  party,  the  Social 
Democrats.39  They  quickly  got  rid  of  the  compromising  initial  alliance  with 
the  old  powers;  Bocckcl,  the  first  antisemitic  member  of  Parliament,  owed 
his  scat  to  votes  of  the  Hessian  peasants  whom  he  defended  against  “Junkers 
and  Jews,”  that  is  against  the  nobility  which  owned  too  much  land  and 
against  the  Jews  upon  whose  credit  the  peasants  depended. 

Small  as  these  first  antisemitic  parties  were,  they  at  once  distinguished 
themselves  from  all  other  parties.  They  made  the  original  claim  that  they 
were  not  a party  among  parties  but  a party  “above  all  parties.”  In  the  class- 
and  party-ridden  nation-state,  only  the  state  and  the  government  had  ever 
claimed  to  be  above  all  parties  and  classes,  to  represent  the  nation  as  a 
whole.  Parties  were  admittedly  groups  whose  deputies  represented  the  in- 
terests of  their  voters.  Even  though  they  fought  for  power,  it  was  implicitly 
understood  that  it  was  up  to  the  government  to  establish  a balance  between 
i the  conflicting  interests  and  their  representatives.  The  antisemitic  parties’ 
claim  to  be  “above  all  parties”  announced  clearly  their  aspiration  to  become 
the  representative  of  the  whole  nation,  to  get  exclusive  power,  to  take  posses- 
sion of  the  state  machinery,  to  substitute  themselves  for  the  state.  Since,  on 
the  other  hand,  they  continued  to  be  organized  as  a party,  it  was  also  clear 
that  they  wanted  state  power  as  a party,  so  that  their  voters  would  actually 
dominate  the  nation. 

The  body  politic  of  the  nation-state  came  into  existence  when  no  single 
group  was  any  longer  in  a position  to  wield  exclusive  political  power,  so 
that  the  government  assumed  actual  political  rule  which  no  longer  depended 
upon  social  and  economic  factors.  The  revolutionary  movements  of  the 
left,  which  fought  for  a radical  change  of  social  conditions,  had  never  directly 
touched  this  supreme  political  authority.  They  had  challenged  only  the 
power  of  the  bourgeoisie  and  its  influence  upon  the  state,  and  were  therefore 
always  ready  to  submit  to  government  guidance  in  foreign  affairs,  where  the 
interests  of  an  assumedly  unified  nation  were  at  stake.  The  numerous 
programs  of  the  antisemitic  groups,  on  the  other  hand,  were,  from  the  begin- 
ning, chiefly  concerned  with  foreign  affairs;  their  revolutionary  impulse  was 

39  See  Wawrzinek,  op.  cit.  An  instructive  account  of  all  these  events,  especially 
with  respect  to  Court  Chaplain  Stoecker,  in  Frank,  op.  cit. 


THE  nation-state;  the  birth  of  antisemitism 

directed  against  the  government  rather  than  a social  class,  and  they  actually 
aimed  to  destroy  the  political  pattern  of  the  nation-state  by  means  of  a party 

The  claim  of  a party  to  be  beyond  all  parties  had  other,  more  significant, 
implications  than  antisemitism.  If  it  had  been  only  a question  of  getting  rid 
of  the  Jews,  Fritsch’s  proposal,  at  one  of  the  early  antisemitic  congresses,40 
not  to  create  a new  party  but  rather  to  disseminate  antisemitism  until 
finally  all  existing  parties  were  hostile  to  Jews,  would  have  brought  much 
quicker  results.  As  it  was,  Fritsch’s  proposal  went  unheeded  because  anti- 
semitism was  then  already  an  instrument  for  the  liquidation  not  only  of  the 
Jews  but  of  the  body  politic  of  the  nation-state  as  well. 

Nor  was  it  an  accident  that  the  claim  of  the  antisemitic  parties  coincided 
with  the  early  stages  of  imperialism  and  found  exact  counterparts  in  certain 
trends  in  Great  Britain  which  were  free  of  antisemitism  and  in  the  highly 
antisemitic  pan-movements  on  the  Continent.41  Only  in  Germany  did  these 
new  trends  spring  directly  from  antisemitism  as  such,  and  antisemitic  parties 
preceded  and  survived  the  formation  of  purely  imperialist  groups  such  as 
the  Alldeutscher  Verband  and  others,  all  of  which  also  claimed  to  be  more 
than  and  above  party  groups. 

The  fact  that  similar  formations  without  active  antisemitism — which 
avoided  the  charlatan  aspect  of  the  antisemitic  parties  and  therefore  seemed 
at  first  to  have  far  better  chances  for  final  victory — were  finally  submerged 
or  liquidated  by  the  antisemitic  movement  is  a good  index  to  the  importance 
of  the  issue.  The  antisemites’  belief  that  their  claim  to  exclusive  rule  was  no 
more  than  what  the  Jews  had  in  fact  achieved,  gave  them  the  advantage  of  a 
domestic  program,  and  conditions  were  such  that  one  had  to  enter  the  arena 
of  social  struggle  in  order  to  win  political  power.  They  could  pretend  to  fight 
the  Jews  exactly  as  the  workers  were  fighting  the  bourgeoisie.  Their  ad- 
vantage was  that  by  attacking  the  Jews,  who  were  believed  to  be  the  secret 
power  behind  governments,  they  could  openly  attack  the  state  itself,  whereas 
the  imperialist  groups,  with  their  mild  and  secondary  antipathy  against  Jews, 
never  found  the  connection  with  the  important  social  struggles  of  the  times. 

The  second  highly  significant  characteristic  of  the  new  antisemitic  parties 
was  that  they  started  at  once  a supranational  organization  of  all  antisemitic 
groups  in  Europe,  in  open  contrast  to,  and  in  defiance  of,  current  nationalistic 
slogans.  By  introducing  this  supranational  element,  they  clearly  indicated 
that  they  aimed  not  only  at  political  rule  over  the  nation  but  had  already 
planned  a step  further  for  an  inter-European  government  “above  all  na- 
tions.” 42  This  second  revolutionary  element  meant  the  fundamental  break 

40  This  proposition  was  made  in  1886  in  Cassel,  where  the  Deutsche  Antisemitische 
V ereinigung  was  founded. 

41  For  an  extensive  discussion  of  the  “parties  above  parties”  and  the  pan-movements 
see  chapter  viii. 

42  The  first  international  anti-Jewish  congress  took  place  in  1882  in  Dresden,  with 
about  3,000  delegates  from  Germany,  Austria-Hungary,  and  Russia;  during  the  dis- 
cussions, Stoecker  was  defeated  by  the  radical  elements  who  met  one  year  later  in 



with  the  status  quo;  it  has  been  frequently  overlooked  because  the  anti- 
Semites  themselves,  partly  because  of  traditional  habits  and  partly  because 
they  consciously  lied,  used  the  language  of  the  reactionary  parties  in  their 

The  intimate  relationship  between  the  peculiar  conditions  of  Jewish  ex- 
istence and  the  ideology  of  such  groups  is  even  more  evident  in  the  organiza- 
tion of  a group  beyond  nations  than  in  the  creation  of  a party  beyond  parties. 
The  Jews  very  clearly  were  the  only  inter-European  element  in  a nationalized 
Europe.  It  seemed  only  logical  that  their  enemies  had  to  organize  on  the 
same  principle,  if  they  were  to  fight  those  who  were  supposed  to  be  the 
secret  manipulators  of  the  political  destiny  of  all  nations. 

While  this  argument  was  sure  to  be  convincing  as  propaganda,  the  suc- 
cess of  supranational  antisemitism  depended  upon  more  general  considera- 
tions. Even  at  the  end  of  the  last  century,  and  especially  since  the  Franco- 
Prussian  War,  more  and  more  people  felt  that  the  national  organization  of 
Europe  was  antiquated  because  it  could  no  longer  adequately  respond  to 
new  economic  challenges.  This  feeling  had  been  a powerful  supporting  argu- 
ment for  the  international  organization  of  socialism  and  had,  in  turn,  been 
strengthened  by  it.  The  conviction  that  identical  interests  existed  all  over 
Europe  was  spreading  through  the  masses.43  Whereas  the  international 
socialist  organizations  remained  passive  and  uninterested  in  all  foreign  policy 
issues  (that  is  in  precisely  those  questions  where  their  internationalism 
might  have  been  tested),  the  antisemites  started  with  problems  of  foreign 
policy  and  even  promised  solution  of  domestic  problems  on  a supranational 
basis.  To  take  ideologies  less  at  their  face  value  and  to  look  more  closely 
at  the  actual  programs  of  the  respective  parties  is  to  discover  that  the 
socialists,  who  were  more  concerned  with  domestic  issues,  fitted  much  better 
into  the  nation-state  than  the  antisemites. 

Of  course  this  does  not  mean  that  the  socialists’  internationalist  convic- 
tions were  not  sincere.  These  were,  on  the  contrary,  stronger  and,  inciden- 
tally, much  older  than  the  discovery  of  class  interests  which  cut  across  the 
boundaries  of  national  states.  But  the  very  awareness  of  the  all-importance 
of  class  struggle  induced  them  to  neglect  that  heritage  which  the  French 
Revolution  had  bequeathed  to  the  workers’  parties  and  which  alone  might 
have  led  them  to  an  articulate  political  theory.  The  socialists  kept  implicitly 
intact  the  original  concept  of  a “nation  among  nations,”  all  of  which  belong 
to  the  family  of  mankind,  but  they  never  found  a device  by  which  to  trans- 

Chemnitz  and  founded  the  Alliance  Antijuive  Universelle.  A good  account  of  these 
meetings  and  congresses,  their  programs  and  discussions,  is  to  be  found  in  Wawrzinek, 
op.  cit. 

43  The  international  solidarity  of  the  workers’  movements  was,  as  far  as  it  went, 
an  intcr-Luropean  matter.  Their  indifference  to  foreign  policy  was  also  a kind  of 
self-protection  against  both  active  participation  in  or  struggle  against  the  con- 
temporary imperialist  policies  of  their  respective  countries.  As  far  as  economic 
interests  were  concerned,  it  was  all  too  obvious  that  everybody  in  the  French  or 
British  or  Dutch  nation  would  feel  the  full  impact  of  the  fall  of  their  empires,  and 
not  just  capitalists  and  bankers. 


THE  nation-state;  the  birth  of  antisemitism 

form  this  idea  into  a working  concept  in  the  world  of  sovereign  states. 
Their  internationalism,  consequently,  remained  a personal  conviction  shared 
by  everybody,  and  their  healthy  disinterest  in  national  sovereignty  turned 
into  a quite  unhealthy  and  unrealistic  indifference  to  foreign  politics.  Since 
the  parties  of  the  left  did  not  object  to  nation-states  on  principle,  but  only 
to  the  aspect  of  national  sovereignty;  since,  moreover,  their  own  inarticulate 
hopes  for  federalist  structures  with  eventual  integration  of  all  nations  on 
equal  terms  somehow  presupposed  national  liberty  and  independence  of  all 
oppressed  peoples,  they  could  operate  within  the  framework  of  the  nation- 
state and  even  emerge,  in  the  time  of  decay  of  its  social  and  political  struc- 
ture, as  the  only  group  in  the  population  that  did  not  indulge  in  expansionist 
fantasies  and  in  thoughts  of  destroying  other  peoples. 

The  supranationalism  of  the  antisemites  approached  the  question  of  in- 
ternational organization  from  exactly  the  opposite  point  of  view.  Their  aim 
was  a dominating  superstructure  which  would  destroy  all  home-grown  na- 
tional structures  alike.  They  could  indulge  in  hypernationalistic  talk  even 
as  they  prepared  to  destroy  the  body  politic  of  their  own  nation,  because 
tribal  nationalism,  with  its  immoderate  lust  for  conquest,  was  one  of  the 
principal  powers  by  which  to  force  open  the  narrow  and  modest  limits  of 
the  nation-state  and  its  sovereignty.44  The  more  effective  the  chauvinistic 
propaganda,  the  easier  it  was  to  persuade  public  opinion  of  the  necessity 
for  a supranational  structure  which  would  rule  from  above  and  without 
national  distinctions  by  a universal  monopoly  of  power  and  the  instruments 
of  violence. 

There  is  little  doubt  that  the  special  inter-European  condition  of  the 
Jewish  people  could  have  served  the  purposes  of  socialist  federalism  at 
least  as  well  as  it  was  to  serve  the  sinister  plots  of  supranationalists.  But 
socialists  were  so  concerned  with  class  struggle  and  so  neglectful  of  the 
political  consequences  of  their  own  inherited  concepts  that  they  became 
aware  of  the  existence  of  the  Jews  as  a political  factor  only  when  they  were 
already  confronted  with  full-blown  antisemitism  as  a serious  competitor  on 
the  domestic  scene.  Then  they  were  not  only  unprepared  to  integrate  the 
Jewish  issue  into  their  theories,  but  actually  afraid  to  touch  the  question 
at  all.  Here  as  in  other  international  issues,  they  left  the  field  to  the  supra- 
nationalists who  could  then  seem  to  be  the  only  ones  who  knew  the  answers 
to  world  problems. 

By  the  turn  of  the  century,  the  effects  of  the  swindles  in  the  seventies 
had  run  their  course  and  an  era  of  prosperity  and  general  well-being,  espe- 
cially in  Germany,  put  an  end  to  the  premature  agitations  of  the  eighties. 
Nobody  could  have  predicted  that  this  end  was  only  a temporary  respite, 
that  all  unsolved  political  questions,  together  with  all  unappeased  political 
hatreds,  were  to  redouble  in  force  and  violence  after  the  first  World  War. 
The  antisemitic  parties  in  Germany,  after  initial  successes,  fell  back  into 
insignificance;  their  leaders,  after  a brief  stirring  of  public  opinion,  disap- 

44  Compare  chapter  viii. 



pcarcd  through  the  back  door  of  history  into  the  darkness  of  crackpot  con- 
fusion and  cure-all  charlatanry. 

iv:  Leftist  Antisemitism 

were  it  not  for  the  frightful  consequences  of  antisemitism  in  our  own  time, 
we  might  have  given  less  attention  to  its  development  in  Germany.  As  a 
political  movement,  nineteenth-century  antisemitism  can  be  studied  best 
in  France,  where  for  almost  a decade  it  dominated  the  political  scene.  As 
an  ideological  force,  competing  with  other  more  respectable  ideologies  for 
the  acceptance  of  public  opinion,  it  reached  its  most  articulate  form  in 

Nowhere  had  the  Jews  rendered  such  great  services  to  the  state  as  in 
Austria,  whose  many  nationalities  were  kept  together  only  by  the  Dual 
Monarchy  of  the  House  of  Hapsburg,  and  where  the  Jewish  state  banker, 
in  contrast  to  all  other  European  countries,  survived  the  downfall  of  the 
monarchy.  Just  as  at  the  beginning  of  this  development  in  the  early  eighteenth 
century,  Samuel  Oppenheimer’s  credit  had  been  identical  with  the  credit 
of  the  House  of  Hapsburg,  so  “in  the  end  Austrian  credit  was  that  of  the 
Creditanstalt'* — a Rothschild  banking  house.45  Although  the  Danube  mon- 
archy had  no  homogeneous  population,  the  most  important  prerequisite  for 
evolution  into  a nation-state,  it  could  not  avoid  the  transformation  of  an 
enlightened  despotism  into  a constitutional  monarchy  and  the  creation  of 
modern  civil  services.  This  meant  that  it  had  to  adopt  certain  institutions  of 
the  nation-state.  For  one  thing,  the  modern  class  system  grew  along  nation- 
ality lines,  so  that  certain  nationalities  began  to  be  identified  with  certain 
classes  or  at  least  professions.  The  German  became  the  dominating  na- 
tionality in  much  the  same  sense  as  the  bourgeoisie  became  the  dominating 
class  in  the  nation-states.  The  Hungarian  landed  aristocracy  played  a role 
that  was  even  more  pronounced  than,  but  essentially  similar  to,  that  played 
by  the  nobility  in  other  countries.  The  state  machinery  itself  tried  its  best  to 
keep  the  same  absolute  distance  from  society,  to  rule  above  all  nationalities, 
as  the  nation-state  with  respect  to  its  classes.  The  result  for  the  Jews  was  sim- 
ply that  the  Jewish  nationality  could  not  merge  with  the  others  and  could 
not  become  a nationality  itself,  just  as  it  had  not  merged  with  other  classes  in 
the  nation-state,  or  become  a class  itself.  As  the  Jews  in  nation-states  had 
differed  from  all  classes  of  society  through  their  special  relationship  to  the 
state,  so  they  differed  from  all  other  nationalities  in  Austria  through  their 
special  relationship  to  the  Hapsburg  monarchy.  And  just  as  everywhere 
else  each  class  that  came  into  open  conflict  with  the  state  turned  antisemitic, 
so  in  Austria  each  nationality  that  not  only  engaged  in  the  all-pervading 
struggle  of  the  nationalities  but  came  into  open  conflict  with  the  monarchy 

45  Sec  Paul  H.  Emden,  “The  Story  of  the  Vienna  Creditanstalt,”  in  Menorah  Journal, 
XXVIII,  1,  1940. 


THE  nation-state;  the  birth  of  antisemitism 

itself,  started  its  fight  with  an  attack  upon  the  Jews.  But  there  was  a marked 
difference  between  these  conflicts  in  Austria,  and  those  in  Germany  and 
France.  In  Austria  they  were  not  only  sharper,  but  at  the  outbreak  of  the 
first  World  War  every  single  nationality,  and  that  meant  every  stratum  of 
society,  was  in  opposition  to  the  state,  so  that  more  than  anywhere  else  in 
Western  or  Central  Europe  the  population  was  imbued  with  active  anti- 

Outstanding  among  these  conflicts  was  the  continuously  rising  state  hos- 
tility of  the  German  nationality,  which  accelerated  after  the  foundation  of 
the  Reich  and  discovered  the  usefulness  of  antisemitic  slogans  after  the 
financial  crash  of  1873.  The  social  situation  at  that  moment  was  practically 
the  same  as  in  Germany,  but  the  social  propaganda  to  catch  the  middle- 
class  vote  immediately  indulged  in  a much  more  violent  attack  on  the  state, 
and  a much  more  outspoken  confession  of  nonloyalty  to  the  country.  More- 
over, the  German  Liberal  Party,  under  the  leadership  of  Schoenerer,  was 
from  the  beginning  a lower  middle-class  party  without  connections  or  re- 
straints from  the  side  of  the  nobility,  and  with  a decidedly  left-wing  outlook. 
It  never  achieved  a real  mass  basis,  but  it  was  remarkably  successful  in  the 
universities  during  the  eighties  where  it  organized  the  first  closely  knit 
students’  organization  on  the  basis  of  open  antisemitism.  Schoenerer’s  anti- 
semitism, at  first  almost  exclusively  directed  against  the  Rothschilds,  won 
him  the  sympathies  of  the  labor  movement,  which  regarded  him  as  a true 
radical  gene  astray.46  His  main  advantage  was  that  he  could  base  his  anti- 
semitic propaganda  on  demonstrable  facts:  as  a member  of  the  Austrian 
Reichsrat  he  had  fought  for  nationalization  of  the  Austrian  railroads,  the 
major  part  of  which  had  been  in  the  hands  of  the  Rothschilds  since  1836 
due  to  a state  license  which  expired  in  1886.  Schoenerer  succeeded  in  gather- 
ing 40,000  signatures  against  its  renewal,  and  in  placing  the  Jewish  question 
in  the  limelight  of  public  interest.  The  close  connection  between  the  Roth- 
schilds and  the  financial  interests  of  the  monarchy  became  very  obvious 
when  the  government  tried  to  extend  the  license  under  conditions  which 
were  patently  to  the  disadvantage  of  the  state  as  well  as  the  public. 
Schoenerer’s  agitation  in  this  matter  became  the  actual  beginning  of  an  ar- 
ticulate antisemitic  movement  in  Austria.47  The  point  is  that  this  movement, 
in  contrast  to  the  German  Stoeckcr  agitation,  was  initiated  and  led  by  a 
man  who  was  sincere  beyond  doubt,  and  therefore  did  not  stop  at  the  use 
of  antisemitism  as  a propaganda  weapon,  but  developed  quickly  that  Pan- 
German  ideology  which  was  to  influence  Nazism  more  deeply  than  any 
other  German  brand  of  antisemitism. 

46  See  F.  A.  Neuschaefer,  Georg  Ritter  von  Schoenerer , Hamburg,  1935,  and 
Eduard  Pichl,  Georg  Schoenerer,  1938,  6 vols.  Even  in  1912,  when  the  Schoenerer 
agitation  had  long  lost  all  significance,  the  Viennese  Arbeiterzeitung  cherished  very 
affectionate  feelings  for  the  man  of  whom  it  could  think  only  in  the  words  Bismarck 
had  once  uttered  about  Lassalle:  “And  if  we  exchanged  shots,  justice  would  still  de- 
mand that  we  admit  even  during  the  shooting:  He  is  a man;  and  the  others  are  old 
women.”  (Neuschaefer,  p.  33.) 

47  See  Neuschaefer,  op.  cit.,  pp.  22  ff.,  and  Pichl,  op.  cit.,  I,  236  ff. 



Though  victorious  in  the  long  run,  the  Schocnerer  movement  was  tempo- 
rarily defeated  by  a second  nntiseniitie  party,  the  Christian-Socials  under 
the  leadership  of  Lueger.  While  Schoencrer  had  attacked  the  Catholic 
Church  and  its  considerable  influence  on  Austrian  politics  almost  as  much 
as  he  had  the  Jews,  the  Christian-Socials  were  a Catholic  party  who  tried 
from  the  outset  to  ally  themselves  with  those  reactionary  conservative  forces 
which  had  proved  so  helpful  in  Germany  and  France.  Since  they  made  more 
social  concessions,  they  were  more  successful  than  in  Germany  or  in  France. 
They,  together  with  the  Social  Democrats,  survived  the  downfall  of  the 
monarchy  and  became  the  most  influential  group  in  postwar  Austria.  But 
long  before  the  establishment  of  an  Austrian  Republic,  when,  in  the  nineties, 
Lueger  had  won  the  Mayoralty  of  Vienna  by  an  antisemitic  campaign,  the 
Christian-Socials  already  adopted  that  typically  equivocal  attitude  toward 
the  Jews  in  the  nation-state — hostility  to  the  intelligentsia  and  friendliness 
toward  the  Jewish  business  class.  It  was  by  no  means  an  accident  that,  after 
a bitter  and  bloody  contest  for  power  with  the  socialist  workers’  movement, 
they  took  over  the  state  machinery  when  Austria,  reduced  to  its  German 
nationality,  was  established  as  a nation-state.  They  turned  out  to  be  the 
only  party  which  was  prepared  for  exactly  this  role  and,  even  under  the 
old  monarchy,  had  won  popularity  because  of  their  nationalism.  Since  the 
Hapsburgs  were  a German  house  and  had  granted  their  German  subjects 
a certain  predominance,  the  Christian-Socials  never  attacked  the  monarchy. 
Their  function  was  rather  to  win  large  parts  of  the  German  nationality  for 
the  support  of  an  essentially  unpopular  government.  Their  antisemitism 
remained  without  consequence;  the  decades  when  Lueger  ruled  Vienna  were 
actually  a kind  of  golden  age  for  the  Jews.  No  matter  how  far  their  propa- 
ganda occasionally  went  in  order  to  get  votes,  they  never  could  have  pro- 
claimed with  Schoencrer  and  the  Pan-Germanists  that  “they  regarded  anti- 
semitism as  the  mainstay  of  our  national  ideology,  as  the  most  essential 
expression  of  genuine  popular  conviction  and  thus  as  the  major  national 
achievement  of  the  century.”  iH  And  although  they  were  as  much  under  the 
influence  of  clerical  circles  as  was  the  antisemitic  movement  in  France,  they 
were  of  necessity  much  more  restrained  in  their  attacks  on  the  Jews  because 
they  did  not  attack  the  monarchy  as  the  antisemites  in  France  attacked  the 
Third  Republic. 

The  successes  and  failures  of  the  two  Austrian  antisemitic  parties  show 
the  scant  relevance  of  social  conflicts  to  the  long-range  issues  of  the  time. 
Compared  with  the  mobilization  of  all  opponents  to  the  government  as  such, 
the  capturing  of  lower  middle-class  votes  was  a temporary  phenomenon. 
Indeed,  the  backbone  of  Schoenerer’s  movement  was  in  those  German- 
speaking provinces  without  any  Jewish  population  at  all,  where  competition 
with  Jews  or  hatred  of  Jewish  bankers  never  existed.  The  survival  of  the 
Pan-Germanist  movement  and  its  violent  antisemitism  in  these  provinces, 
while  it  subsided  in  the  urban  centers,  was  merely  due  to  the  fact  that  these 

,M  Quoted  from  Pichl,  op.  cit.,  I,  p.  26. 

THE  nation-state;  the  birth  of  antisemitism 


provinces  were  never  reached  to  the  same  extent  by  the  universal  prosperity 
of  the  pre-war  period  which  reconciled  the  urban  population  with  the  gov- 

The  complete  lack  of  loyalty  to  their  own  country  and  its  government, 
for  which  the  Pan-Germanists  substituted  an  open  loyalty  to  Bismarck’s 
Reich,  and  the  resulting  concept  of  nationhood  as  something  independent 
of  state  and  territory,  led  the  Schoenerer  group  to  a veritable  imperialist 
ideology  in  which  lies  the  clue  to  its  temporary  weakness  and  its  final 
strength.  It  is  also  the  reason  why  the  Pan-German  party  in  Germany  (the 
Alldeutschen),  which  never  overstepped  the  limits  of  ordinary  chauvinism, 
remained  so  extremely  suspicious  and  reluctant  to  take  the  outstretched 
hands  of  their  Austrian  Germanist  brothers.  This  Austrian  movement  aimed 
at  more  than  rise  to  power  as  a party,  more  than  the  possession  of  the  state 
machinery.  It  wanted  a revolutionary  reorganization  of  Central  Europe  in 
which  the  Germans  of  Austria,  together  with  and  strengthened  by  the  Ger- 
mans of  Germany,  would  become  the  ruling  people,  in  which  all  other 
peoples  of  the  area  would  be  kept  in  the  same  kind  of  semiservitude  as  the 
Slavonic  nationalities  in  Austria.  Because  of  this  close  affinity  to  imperialism 
and  the  fundamental  change  it  brought  to  the  concept  of  nationhood,  we 
shall  have  to  postpone  the  discussion  of  the  Austrian  Pan-Germanist  move- 
ment. It  is  no  longer,  at  least  in  its  consequences,  a mere  nineteenth-century 
preparatory  movement;  it  belongs,  more  than  any  other  brand  of  anti- 
semitism, to  the  course  of  events  of  our  own  century. 

The  exact  opposite  is  true  of  French  antisemitism.  The  Dreyfus  Affair 
brings  into  the  open  all  other  elements  of  nineteenth-century  antisemitism 
in  its  mere  ideological  and  political  aspects;  it  is  the  culmination  of  the 
antisemitism  which  grew  out  of  the  special  conditions  of  the  nation-state.  Yet 
its  violent  form  foreshadowed  future  developments,  so  that  the  main  actors 
of  the  Affair  sometimes  seem  to  be  staging  a huge  dress  rehearsal  for  a per- 
formance that  had  to  be  put  off  for  more  than  three  decades.  It  drew  to- 
gether all  the  open  or  subterranean,  political  or  social  sources  which  had 
brought  the  Jewish  question  into  a predominant  position  in  the  nineteenth 
century;  its  premature  outburst,  on  the  other  hand,  kept  it  within  the  frame- 
work of  a typical  nineteenth-century  ideology  which,  although  it  survived 
all  French  governments  and  political  crises,  never  quite  fitted  into  twentieth- 
century  political  conditions.  When,  after  the  1940  defeat,  French  anti- 
semitism got  its  supreme  chance  under  the  Vichy  government,  it  had  a 
definitely  antiquated  and,  for  major  purposes,  rather  useless  character, 
which  German  Nazi  writers  never  forgot  to  point  out.49  It  had  ho  influence 
on  the  formation  of  Nazism  and  remains  more  significant  in  itself  than  as 
an  active  historical  factor  in  the  final  catastrophe. 

The  principal  reason  for  these  wholesome  limitations  was  that  France’s 
antisemitic  parties,  though  violent  on  the  domestic  scene,  had  no  supra- 

49  See  especially  Walfried  Vemunft,  “Die  Hintergriinde  des  franzosischen  Anti- 
semitismus,”  in  Nationalsozialistische  Monatshefte,  Juni,  1939. 



national  aspirations.  They  belonged  after  all  to  the  oldest  and  most  fully 
developed  nation-state  in  Europe.  None  of  the  antisemites  ever  tried  seriously 
to  organize  a “party  above  parties”  or  to  seize  the  state  as  a party  and  for 
no  other  purpose  but  party  interests.  The  few  attempted  coups  d'etat  which 
might  be  credited  to  the  alliance  between  antisemites  and  higher  army 
officers  were  ridiculously  inadequate  and  obviously  contrived.50  In  1898 
some  nineteen  members  of  Parliament  were  elected  through  antisemitic 
campaigns,  but  this  was  a peak  which  was  never  reached  again  and  from 
which  the  decline  was  rapid. 

It  is  true,  on  the  other  hand,  that  this  was  the  earliest  instance  of  the 
success  of  antisemitism  as  a catalytic  agent  for  all  other  political  issues.  This 
can  be  attributed  to  the  lack  of  authority  of  the  Third  Republic,  which  had 
been  voted  in  with  a very  slight  majority.  In  the  eyes  of  the  masses,  the 
state  had  lost  its  prestige  along  with  the  monarchy,  and  attacks  on  the  state 
were  no  longer  a sacrilege.  The  early  outburst  of  violence  in  France  bears 
a striking  resemblance  to  similar  agitation  in  the  Austrian  and  German 
Republics  after  the  first  World  War.  The  Nazi  dictatorship  has  been  so 
frequently  connected  with  so-called  “state-worship”  that  even  historians 
have  become  somewhat  blind  to  the  truism  that  the  Nazis  took  advantage 
of  the  complete  breakdown  of  state  worship,  originally  prompted  by  the 
worship  of  a prince  who  sits  on  the  throne  by  the  grace  of  God,  and  which 
hardly  ever  occurs  in  a Republic.  In  France,  fifty  years  before  Central 
European  countries  were  affected  by  this  universal  loss  of  reverence,  state 
worship  had  suffered  many  defeats.  It  was  much  easier  to  attack  the  Jews 
and  the  government  together  there  than  in  Central  Europe  where  the  Jews 
were  attacked  in  order  to  attack  the  government. 

French  antisemitism,  moreover,  is  as  much  older  than  its  European  coun- 
terparts as  is  French  emancipation  of  the  Jews,  which  dates  back  to  the  end 
of  the  eighteenth  century.  The  representatives  of  the  Age  of  Enlightenment 
who  prepared  the  French  Revolution  despised  the  Jews  as  a matter  of  course; 
they  saw  in  them  the  backward  remnants  of  the  Dark  Ages,  and  they  hated 
them  as  the  financial  agents  of  the  aristocracy.  The  only  articulate  friends 
of  the  Jews  in  France  were  conservative  writers  who  denounced  anti-Jewish 
attitudes  as  “one  of  the  favorite  theses  of  the  eighteenth  century.”  51  For 
the  more  liberal  or  radical  writer  it  had  become  almost  a tradition  to  warn 
against  the  Jews  as  barbarians  who  still  lived  in  the  patriarchal  form  of  gov- 
ernment and  recognized  no  other  state.52  During  and  after  the  French  Rev- 
olution, the  French  clergy  and  French  aristocrats  added  their  voices  to  the 
general  anti-Jewish  sentiment,  though  for  other  and  more  material  reasons. 
They  accused  the  revolutionary  government  of  having  ordered  the  sale  of 
clerical  property  to  pay  “the  Jews  and  merchants  to  whom  the  government 

t0  See  Chapter  iv. 

61  See  J.  de  Maistre,  Les  Soirees  de  St.  Petersburg,  1821,  II,  55. 

i2  Charles  Fourier,  Nouveau  Monde  Industriel,  1829,  Vol.  V of  his  Oeuvres  Com- 
petes, 1841,  p.  421.  For  Fourier’s  anti-Jewish  doctrines,  see  also  Edmund  Silberner, 
Charles  Fourier  on  the  Jewish  Question”  in  Jewish  Social  Studies,  October,  1946. 

THE  nation-state;  the  birth  of  antisemitism 


is  indebted.”  63  These  old  arguments,  somehow  kept  alive  through  the  never- 
ending  struggle  between  Church  and  State  in  France,  supported  the  general 
violence  and  embitterment  which  had  been  touched  off  by  other  and  more 
modern  forces  at  the  end  of  the  century. 

Mainly  because  of  the  strong  clerical  support  of  antisemitism,  the  French 
socialist  movement  finally  decided  to  take  a stand  against  antisemitic  propa- 
ganda in  the  Dreyfus  Affair.  Until  then,  however,  nineteenth-century  French 
leftist  movements  had  been  outspoken  in  their  antipathy  to  the  Jews.  They 
simply  followed  the  tradition  of  eighteenth-century  enlightenment  which 
was  the  source  of  French  liberalism  and  radicalism,  and  they  considered 
anti-Jewish  attitudes  an  integral  part  of  anticlericalism.  These  sentiments  on 
the  left  were  strengthened  first  by  the  fact  that  the  Alsatian  Jews  continued 
to  live  from  lending  money  to  peasants,  a practice  which  had  already 
prompted  Napoleon’s  decree  of  1808.  After  conditions  had  changed  in 
Alsace,  leftist  antisemitism  found  a new  source  of  strength  in  the  financial 
policies  of  the  house  of  Rothschild,  which  played  a large  part  in  the  financ- 
ing of  the  Bourbons,  maintained  close  connections  with  Louis  Philippe,  and 
flourished  under  Napoleon  III. 

Behind  these  obvious  and  rather  superficial  incentives  to  anti-Jewish 
attitudes  there  was  a deeper  cause,  which  was  crucial  to  the  whole  struc- 
ture of  the  specifically  French  brand  of  radicalism,  and  which  almost  suc- 
ceeded in  turning  the  whole  French  leftist  movement  against  the  Jews. 
Bankers  were  much  stronger  in  the  French  economy  than  in  other  capitalist 
countries,  and  France’s  industrial  development,  after  a brief  rise  during  the 
reign  of  Napoleon  III,  lagged  so  far  behind  other  nations  that  pre-capitalist 
socialist  tendencies  continued  to  exert  considerable  influence.  The  lower 
middle  classes  which  in  Germany  and  Austria  became  antisemitic  only  dur- 
ing the  seventies  and  eighties,  when  they  were  already  so  desperate  that  they 
could  be  used  for  reactionary  politics  as  well  as  for  the  new  mob  policies, 
had  been  antisemitic  in  France  some  fifty  years  earlier,  when,  with  the  help 
of  the  working  class,  they  carried  the  revolution  of  1848  to  a brief  victory. 
In  the  forties,  when  Toussenel  published  his  Les  Juifs,  Rois  de  VEpoque, 
the  most  important  book  in  a veritable  flood  of  pamphlets  against  the 
Rothschilds,  it  was  enthusiastically  received  by  the  entire  left-wing  press, 
which  at  the  time  was  the  organ  of  the  revolutionary  lower  middle  classes. 
Their  sentiments,  as  expressed  by  Toussenel,  though  less  articulate  and 
less  sophisticated,  were  not  very  different  from  those  of  the  young  Marx, 
and  Toussenel’s  attack  on  the  Rothschilds  was  only  a less  gifted  and  more 
elaborate  variation  of  the  letters  from  Paris  which  Boerne  had  written 
fifteen  years  before.64  These  Jews,  too,  mistook  the  Jewish  banker  for  a 

53  See  the  newspaper  Le  Patriote  Frangais,  No.  457,  November  8,  1790.  Quoted 
from  Clemens  August  Hoberg,  “Die  geistigen  Grundlagen  des  Antisemitismus  im 
modernen  Frankreich,”  in  Forschungen  zur  Judenfrage,  1940,  Vol.  IV. 

54  Marx’s  essay  on  the  Jewish  question  is  sufficiently  well  known  not  to  warrant 
quotation.  Since  Boerne’s  utterances,  because  of  their  merely  polemical  and  un- 
theoretical  character,  are  being  forgotten  today,  we  quote  from  the  72nd  letter  from 



central  figure  in  the  capitalist  system,  an  error  which  has  exerted  a certain 
influence  on  the  municipal  and  lower  government  bureaucracy  in  France 
up  to  our  own  time.68 

However  this  outburst  of  popular  anti-Jewish  feeling,  nourished  by  an 
economic  conflict  between  Jewish  bankers  and  their  desperate  clientele, 
lasted  no  longer  as  an  important  factor  in  politics  than  similar  outbursts 
with  purely  economic  or  social  causes.  The  twenty  years  of  Napoleon  Ill’s 
rule  over  a French  Empire  were  an  age  of  prosperity  and  security  for  French 
Jewry  much  like  the  two  decades  before  the  outbreak  of  the  first  World  War 
in  Germany  and  Austria. 

The  only  brand  of  French  antisemitism  which  actually  remained  strong, 
and  outlasted  social  antisemitism  as  well  as  the  contemptuous  attitudes  of 
anticlerical  intellectuals,  was  tied  up  with  a general  xenophobia.  Especially 
after  the  first  World  War,  foreign  Jews  became  the  stereotypes  for  all  for- 
eigners. A differentiation  between  native  Jews  and  those  who  “invaded”  the 
country  from  the  East  has  been  made  in  all  Western  and  Central  European 
countries.  Polish  and  Russian  Jews  were  treated  exactly  the  same  way  in 
Germany  and  Austria  as  Rumanian  and  German  Jews  were  treated  in  France, 
just  as  Jews  from  Posen  in  Germany  or  from  Galicia  in  Austria  were  re- 
garded with  the  same  snobbish  contempt  as  Jews  from  Alsace  were  in 
France.  But  only  in  France  did  this  differentiation  assume  such  importance 
on  the  domestic  scene.  And  this  is  probably  due  to  the  fact  that  the  Roth- 
schilds, who  more  than  anywhere  else  were  the  butt  of  anti-Jewish  attacks, 
had  immigrated  into  France  from  Germany,  so  that  up  to  the  outbreak  of 
the  second  World  War  it  became  natural  to  suspect  the  Jews  of  sympathies 
with  the  national  enemy. 

Nationalistic  antisemitism,  harmless  when  compared  with  modern  move- 
ments, was  never  a monopoly  of  reactionaries  and  chauvinists  in  France. 
On  this  point,  the  writer  Jean  Giraudoux,  the  propaganda  minister  in 
Daladier’s  war  cabinet,  was  in  complete  agreement 56  with  Petain  and  the 

Paris  (January,  1832):  “Rothschild  kissed  the  Pope’s  hand.  ...  At  last  the  order 
has  come  which  God  had  planned  when  he  created  the  world.  A poor  Christian 
kisses  the  Pope’s  feel,  and  a rich  Jew  kisses  his  hand.  If  Rothschild  had  gotten  his 
Roman  loan  al  60  per  cent,  instead  of  65,  and  could  have  sent  the  cardinal-chamber- 
lain more  than  ten  thousand  ducats,  they  would  have  allowed  him  to  embrace  the 
Holy  Father.  . . . Would  it  not  be  the  greatest  luck  for  the  world  if  all  kings  were 
deposed  and  the  Rothschild  family  placed  on  the  throne?”  Briefe  aus  Paris.  1830-1833. 

66  This  attitude  is  well  described  in  the  preface  by  the  municipal  councilor  Paul 
Brousse  to  Cesare  Lombroso’s  famous  work  on  antisemitism  (1899).  The  character- 
istic part  of  the  argument  is  contained  in  the  following:  “The  small  shopkeeper  needs 
credit,  and  we  know  how  badly  organized  and  how  expensive  credit  is  these  days. 
Here  loo  the  small  merchant  places  the  responsibility  on  the  Jewish  banker.  All  the 
way  down  to  the  worker — i.e.  only  those  workers  who  have  no  clear  notion  of  scien- 
tific socialism — everybody  thinks  the  revolution  is  being  advanced  if  the  general  ex- 
propriation of  capitalists  is  preceded  by  the  expropriation  of  Jewish  capitalists,  who 
are  the  most  typical  and  whose  names  are  the  most  familiar  to  the  masses.” 

56  Eor  the  surprising  continuity  in  French  antisemitic  arguments,  compare,  for 
instance,  Charles  Fourier’s  picture  of  the  Jew  “Iscariote”  who  arrives  in  France  with 
100,000  pounds,  establishes  himself  in  a town  with  six  competitors  in  his  field, 


THE  nation-state;  the  birth  of  antisemitism 

Vichy  government,  which  also,  no  matter  how  hard  it  tried  to  please  the 
Germans,  could  not  break  through  the  limitations  of  this  outmoded  antip- 
athy for  Jews.  The  failure  was  all  the  more  conspicuous  since  the  French 
had  produced  an  outstanding  antisemite  who  realized  the  full  range  and 
possibilities  of  the  new  weapon.  That  this  man  should  be  a prominent  novel- 
ist is  characteristic  of  conditions  in  France,  where  antisemitism  in  general 
had  never  fallen  into  the  same  social  and  intellectual  disrepute  as  in  other 
European  countries. 

Louis  Ferdinand  Celine  had  a simple  thesis,  ingenious  and  containing 
exactly  the  ideological  imagination  that  the  more  rational  French  anti- 
semitism had  lacked.  He  claimed  that  the  Jews  had  prevented  the  evolution 
of  Europe  into  a political  entity,  had  caused  all  European  wars  since  843, 
and  had  plotted  the  ruin  of  both  France  and  Germany  by  inciting  their 
mutual  hostility.  Celine  proposed  this  fantastic  explanation  of  history  in 
his  Ecole  des  Cadavres,  written  at  the  time  of  the  Munich  pact  and  pub- 
lished during  the  first  months  of  the  war.  An  earlier  pamphlet  on  the  sub- 
ject, Bagatelle  pour  un  Massacre  (1938),  although  it  did  not  include  the 
new  key  to  European  history,  was  already  remarkably  modem  in  its  ap- 
proach; it  avoided  all  restricting  differentiations  between  native  and  foreign 
Jews,  between  good  and  bad  ones,  and  did  not  bother  with  elaborate  legisla- 
tive proposals  (a  particular  characteristic  of  French  antisemitism),  but  went 
straight  to  the  core  of  the  matter  and  demanded  the  massacre  of  all  Jews. 

Celine’s  first  book  was  very  favorably  received  by  France’s  leading  in- 
tellectuals, who  were  half  pleased  by  the  attack  on  the  Jews  and  half  con- 
vinced that  it  was  nothing  more  than  an  interesting  new  literary  fancy.67 
For  exactly  the  same  reasons  French  home-grown  Fascists  did  not  take 
Celine  seriously,  despite  the  fact  that  the  Nazis  always  knew  he  was  the 
only  true  antisemite  in  France.  The  inherent  good  sense  of  French  politicians 
and  their  deep-rooted  respectability  prevented  their  accepting  a charlatan 
and  crackpot.  The  result  was  that  even  the  Germans,  who  knew  better,  had 
to  continue  to  use  such  inadequate  supporters  as  Doriot,  a follower  of  Mus- 
solini, and  Petain,  an  old  French  chauvinist  with  no  comprehension  what- 
ever of  modern  problems,  in  their  vain  efforts  to  persuade  the  French  people 
that  extermination  of  the  Jews  would  be  a cure  for  everything  under  the 
sun.  The  way  this  situation  developed  during  the  years  of  French  official, 

crushes  all  the  competing  houses,  amasses  a great  fortune,  and  returns  to  Germany 
(in  Theorie  des  quatre  mouvements,  1808,  Oeuvres  Completes,  88  ff.)  with  Giraudoux’s 
picture  of  1939:  “By  an  infiltration  whose  secret  I have  tried  in  vain  to  detect,  hun- 
dreds of  thousands  of  Ashkenasim,  who  escaped  from  the  Polish  and  Rumanian 
Ghettos,  have  entered  our  country  . . . eliminating  our  fellow  citizens  and,  at  the 
same  time,  ruining  their  professional  customs  and  traditions  . . . and  defying  all  in- 
vestigations of  census,  taxes  and  labor.”  In  Pleins  Pouvoirs,  1939. 

67  See  especially  the  critical  discussion  in  the  Nouvelle  Revue  Frangaise  by  Marcel 
Arland  (February,  1938)  who  claims  that  Celine’s  position  is  essentially  “solide." 
Andre  Gide  (April,  1938)  thinks  that  Celine  in  depicting  only  the  Jewish  “speciality ” 
has  succeeded  in  painting  not  the  reality  but  the  very  hallucination  which  reality 



and  even  unofficial,  readiness  to  co-operate  with  Nazi  Germany,  clearly 
indicates  how  inefTcctive  nineteenth-century  antisemitism  was  to  the  new 
political  purposes  of  the  twentieth,  even  in  a country  where  it  had  reached 
its  fullest  development  and  had  survived  all  other  changes  in  public  opinion. 
It  did  not  matter  that  able  nineteenth-century  journalists  like  Edouard  Dru- 
mont,  and  even  great  contemporary  writers  like  Georges  Bernanos,  con- 
tributed to  a cause  that  was  much  more  adequately  served  by  crackpots  and 

Thai  France,  for  various  reasons,  nevrr  developed  a full-fledged  im- 
perialist party  turned  out  to  be  the  decisive  element.  As  many  French 
colonial  politicians  have  pointed  out,58  only  a French-German  alliance 
would  have  enabled  France  to  compete  with  England  in  the  division  of  the 
world  and  to  join  successfully  in  the  scramble  for  Africa.  Yet  France  some- 
how never  let  herself  be  tempted  into  this  competition,  despite  all  her  noisy 
resentment  and  hostility  against  Great  Britain.  France  was  and  remained — 
though  declining  in  importance — the  nation  par  excellence  on  the  Continent, 
and  even  her  feeble  imperialist  attempts  usually  ended  with  the  birth  of  new 
national  independence  movements.  Since,  moreover,  her  antisemitism  had 
been  nourished  principally  by  the  purely  national  French-German  conflict, 
the  Jewish  issue  was  almost  automatically  kept  from  playing  much  of  a 
role  in  imperialist  policies,  despite  the  conditions  in  Algeria,  whose  mixed 
population  of  native  Jews  and  Arabs  would  have  offered  an  excellent  oppor- 
tunity.50 The  simple  and  brutal  destruction  of  the  French  nation-state  by 
German  aggression,  the  mockery  of  a German-French  alliance  on  the  basis 
of  German  occupation  and  French  defeat,  may  have  proved  how  little 
strength  of  her  own  the  nation  par  excellence  had  carried  into  our  times 
from  a glorious  past;  it  did  not  change  her  essential  political  structure. 

v:  The  Golden  Age  of  Security 

only  two  decades  separated  the  temporary  decline  of  the  antisemitic 
movements  from  the  outbreak  of  the  first  World  War.  This  period  has  been 
adequately  described  as  a “Golden  Age  of  Security”  G0  because  only  a few 
who  lived  in  it  felt  the  inherent  weakness  of  an  obviously  outmoded  political 
structure  which,  despite  all  prophecies  of  imminent  doom,  continued  to 
function  in  spurious  splendor  and  with  inexplicable,  monotonous  stubborn- 
ness. Side  by  side,  and  apparently  with  equal  stability,  an  anachronistic 
despotism  in  Russia,  a corrupt  bureaucracy  in  Austria,  a stupid  militarism 

c9  See  for  instance  Rene  Pinon,  France  et  AUemagne,  1912. 

59  Some  aspects  of  the  Jewish  question  in  Algeria  are  treated  in  the  author’s 
article,  “Why  the  Cremieux  Decree  was  Abrogated,”  in  Contemporary  Jewish  Record, 
April,  1943. 

60  The  term  is  Stefan  Zweig’s,  who  thus  named  the  period  up  to  the  first  World 
War  in  The  World  of  Yesterday:  An  Autobiography,  1943. 


THE  nation-state;  the  birth  of  antisemitism 

in  Germany  and  a half-hearted  Republic  in  continual  crisis  in  France — all 
of  them  still  under  the  shadow  of  the  world-wide  power  of  the  British  Em- 
pire— managed  to  carry  on.  None  of  these  governments  was  especially 
popular,  and  all  faced  growing  domestic  opposition;  but  nowhere  did  there 
seem  to  exist  an  earnest  political  will  for  radical  change  in  political  condi- 
tions. Europe  was  much  too  busy  expanding  economically  for  any  nation 
or  social  stratum  to  take  political  questions  seriously.  Everything  could  go 
on  because  nobody  cared.  Or,  in  the  penetrating  words  of  Chesterton,  “every- 
thing is  prolonging  its  existence  by  denying  that  it  exists.”  61 

The  enormous  growth  of  industrial  and  economic  capacity  produced  a 
steady  weakening  of  purely  political  factors,  while  at  the  same  time  economic 
forces  became  dominant  in  the  international  play  of  power.  Power  was 
thought  to  be  synonymous  with  economic  capacity  before  people  discovered 
that  economic  and  industrial  capacity  are  only  its  modern  prerequisites.  In  a 
sense,  economic  power  could  bring  governments  to  heel  because  they  had 
the  same  faith  in  economics  as  the  plain  businessmen  who  had  somehow 
convinced  them  that  the  state’s  means  of  violence  had  to  be  used  exclusively 
for  protection  of  business  interests  and  national  property.  For  a very  brief 
time,  there  was  some  truth  in  Walter  Rathenau’s  remark  that  300  men,  who 
all  know  each  other,  held  the  destinies  of  the  world  in  their  hands.  This 
odd  state  of  affairs  lasted  exactly  until  1914  when,  through  the  very  fact  of 
war,  the  confidence  of  the  masses  in  the  providential  character  of  economic 
expansion  fell  apart. 

The  Jews  were  more  deluded  by  the  appearances  of  the  golden  age  of 
security  than  any  other  section  of  the  European  peoples.  Antisemitism  seemed 
to  be  a thing  of  the  past;  the  more  the  governments  lost  in  power  and  prestige, 
the  less  attention  was  paid  to  the  Jews.  While  the  state  played  an  ever  nar- 
rower and  emptier  representative  role,  political  representation  tended  to 
become  a kind  of  theatrical  performance  of  varying  quality  until  in  Austria 
the  theater  itself  became  the  focus  of  national  life,  an  institution  whose  pub- 
lic significance  was  certainly  greater  than  that  of  Parliament.  The  theatrical 
quality  of  the  political  world  had  become  so  patent  that  the  theater  could 
appear  as  the  realm  of  reality. 

The  growing  influence  of  big  business  on  the  state  and  the  state’s  de- 
clining need  for  Jewish  services  threatened  the  Jewish  banker  with  extinc- 
tion and  forced  certain  shifts  in  Jewish  occupations.  The  first  sign  of  the 
decline  of  the  Jewish  banking  houses  was  their  loss  of  prestige  and  power 
within  the  Jewish  communities.  They  were  no  longer  strong  enough  to  cen- 
tralize and,  to  a certain  extent,  monopolize  the  general  Jewish  wealth.  More 
and  more  Jews  left  state  finance  for  independent  business.  Out  of  food  and 
clothing  deliveries  to  armies  and  governments  grew  the  Jewish  food  and 
grain  commerce,  and  the  garment  industries  in  which  they  soon  acquired  a 
prominent  position  in  all  countries;  pawnshops  and  general  stores  in  small 

61  For  a wonderful  description  of  the  British  state  of  affairs,  see  G.  K.  Chesterton, 
The  Return  of  Don  Quixote,  which  did  not  appear  until  1927  but  was  “planned  and 
partly  written  before  the  War.” 



country  towns  were  the  predecessors  of  department  stores  in  the  cities. 
This  docs  not  mean  that  the  relationship  between  Jews  and  governments 
ceased  to  exist,  but  fewer  individuals  were  involved,  so  that  at  the  end  of  this 
period  we  have  almost  the  same  picture  as  at  the  beginning:  a few  Jewish 
individuals  in  important  financial  positions  with  little  or  no  connection  with 
the  broader  strata  of  the  Jewish  middle  class. 

More  important  than  the  expansion  of  the  independent  Jewish  business 
class  was  another  shift  in  the  occupational  structure.  Central  and  Western 
European  Jewries  had  reached  a saturation  point  in  wealth  and  economic 
fortune.  This  might  have  been  the  moment  for  them  to  show  that  they 
actually  wanted  money  for  money’s  or  for  power’s  sake.  In  the  former  case, 
they  might  have  expanded  their  businesses  and  handed  them  down  to  their 
descendants;  in  the  latter  they  might  have  entrenched  themselves  more 
firmly  in  state  business  and  fought  the  influence  of  big  business  and  in- 
dustry on  governments.  But  they  did  neither.  On  the  contrary,  the  sons  of 
the  well-to-do  businessmen  and,  to  a lesser  extent,  bankers,  deserted  their 
fathers’  careers  for  the  liberal  professions  or  purely  intellectual  pursuits  they 
had  not  been  able  to  afford  a few  generations  before.  What  the  nation-state 
had  once  feared  so  much,  the  birth  of  a Jewish  intelligentsia,  now  proceeded 
at  a fantastic  pace.  The  crowding  of  Jewish  sons  of  well-to-do  parents  into 
the  cultural  occupations  was  especially  marked  in  Germany  and  Austria, 
where  a great  proportion  of  cultural  institutions,  like  newspapers,  publishing, 
music,  and  theater,  became  Jewish  enterprises. 

What  had  been  made  possible  through  the  traditional  Jewish  preference 
and  respect  for  intellectual  occupations  resulted  in  a real  break  with  tradi- 
tion and  the  intellectual  assimilation  and  nationalization  of  important  strata 
of  Western  and  Central  European  Jewry.  Politically,  it  indicated  emancipa- 
tion of  Jews  from  state  protection,  growing  consciousness  of  a common 
destiny  with  their  fellow-citizens,  and  a considerable  loosening  of  the  ties 
that  had  made  Jews  an  inter-European  element.  Socially,  the  Jewish  intel- 
lectuals were  the  first  who,  as  a group,  needed  and  wanted  admittance  to 
non-Jewish  society.  Social  discrimination,  a small  matter  to  their  fathers 
who  had  not  cared  for  social  intercourse  with  Gentiles,  became  a paramount 
problem  for  them. 

Searching  for  a road  into  society,  this  group  was  forced  to  accept  social 
behavior  patterns  set  by  individual  Jews  who  had  been  admitted  into  society 
during  the  nineteenth  century  as  exceptions  to  the  rule  of  discrimination. 
They  quickly  discovered  the  force  that  would  open  all  doors,  the  “radiant 
Power  of  Fame”  (Stefan  Zweig),  which  a hundred  years’  idolatry  of  genius 
had  made  irresistible.  What  distinguished  the  Jewish  pursuit  of  fame  from 
the  general  fame  idolatry  of  the  time  was  that  Jews  were  not  primarily  in- 
terested in  it  for  themselves.  To  live  in  the  aura  of  fame  was  more  important 
than  to  become  famous;  thus  they  became  outstanding  reviewers,  critics, 
collectors,  and  organizers  of  what  was  famous.  The  “radiant  power”  was 
a very  real  social  force  by  which  the  socially  homeless  were  able  to  establish 
a home.  The  Jewish  intellectuals,  in  other  words,  tried,  and  to  a certain 


THE  nation-state;  the  birth  of  antisemitism 

extent  succeeded,  in  becoming  the  living  tie  binding  famous  individuals 
into  a society  of  the  renowned,  an  international  society  by  definition,  for 
spiritual  achievement  transcends  national  boundaries.  The  general  weaken- 
ing of  political  factors,  for  two  decades  having  brought  about  a situation 
in  which  reality  and  appearance,  political  reality  and  theatrical  performance 
could  easily  parody  each  other,  now  enabled  them  to  become  the  repre- 
sentatives of  a nebulous  international  society  in  which  national  prejudices 
no  longer  seemed  valid.  And  paradoxically  enough,  this  international  society 
seemed  to  be  the  only  one  that  recognized  the  nationalization  and  assimila- 
tion of  its  Jewish  members;  it  was  far  easier  for  an  Austrian  Jew  to  be 
accepted  as  an  Austrian  in  France  than  in  Austria.  The  spurious  world 
citizenship  of  this  generation,  this  fictitious  nationality  which  they  claimed 
as  soon  as  their  Jewish  origin  was  mentioned,  in  part  already  resembled 
those  passports  which  later  granted  their  owner  the  right  to  sojourn  in 
every  country  except  the  one  that  issued  it. 

By  their  very  nature,  these  circumstances  could  not  but  bring  Jews  into 
prominence  just  when  their  activities,  their  satisfaction  and  happiness  in  the 
world  of  appearance,  proved  that,  as  a group,  they  wanted  in  fact  neither 
money  nor  power.  While  serious  statesmen  and  publicists  now  bothered  with 
the  Jewish  question  less  than  at  any  time  since  the  emancipation,  and  while 
antisemitism  almost  entirely  disappeared  from  the  open  political  scene,  Jews 
became  the  symbols  of  Society  as  such  and  the  objects  of  hatred  for  all 
those  whom  society  did  not  accept.  Antisemitism,  having  lost  its  ground  in 
the  special  conditions  that  had  influenced  its  development  during  the  nine- 
teenth century,  could  be  freely  elaborated  by  charlatans  and  crackpots  into 
that  weird  mixture  of  half-truths  and  wild  superstitions  which  emerged  in 
Europe  after  1914,  the  ideology  of  all  frustrated  and  resentful  elements. 

Since  the  Jewish  question  in  its  social  aspect  turned  into  a catalyst  of 
social  unrest,  until  finally  a disintegrated  society  recrystallized  ideologically 
around  a possible  massacre  of  Jews,  it  is  necessary  to  outline  some  of  the 
main  traits  of  the  social  history  of  emancipated  Jewry  in  the  bourgeois 
society  of  the  last  century. 

CHAPTER  three: 

The  Jews  and  Society 

The  Jews’  political  ignorance,  which  fitted  them  so  well  for  their  special 
role  and  for  taking  roots  in  the  state’s  sphere  of  business,  and  their 
prejudices  against  the  people  and  in  favor  of  authority,  which  blinded  them 
to  the  political  dangers  of  antisemitism,  caused  them  to  be  oversensitive 
toward  all  forms  of  social  discrimination.  It  was  difficult  to  see  the  decisive 
difference  between  political  argument  and  mere  antipathy  when  the  two 
developed  side  by  side.  The  point,  however,  is  that  they  grew  out  of  exactly 
opposite  aspects  of  emancipation:  political  antisemitism  developed  because 
the  Jews  were  a separate  body,  while  social  discrimination  arose  because 
of  the  growing  equality  of  Jews  with  all  other  groups. 

Equality  of  condition,  though  it  is  certainly  a basic  requirement  for  jus- 
tice, is  nevertheless  among  the  greatest  and  most  uncertain  ventures  of  mod- 
ern mankind.  The  more  equal  conditions  are,  the  less  explanation  there  is  for 
the  differences  that  actually  exist  between  people;  and  thus  all  the  more 
unequal  do  individuals  and  groups  become.  This  perplexing  consequence 
came  fully  to  light  as  soon  as  equality  was  no  longer  seen  in  terms  of  an 
omnipotent  being  like  God  or  an  unavoidable  common  destiny  like  death. 
Whenever  equality  becomes  a mundane  fact  in  itself,  without  any  gauge  by 
which  it  may  be  measured  or  explained,  then  there  is  one  chance  in  a hun- 
dred that  it  will  be  recognized  simply  as  a working  principle  of  a political 
organization  in  which  otherwise  unequal  people  have  equal  rights;  there  are 
ninety-nine  chances  that  it  will  be  mistaken  for  an  innate  quality  of  every 
individual,  who  is  “normal”  if  he  is  like  everybody  else  and  “abnormal”  if 
he  happens  to  be  different.  This  perversion  of  equality  from  a political  into 
a social  concept  is  all  the  more  dangerous  when  a society  leaves  but  little 
space  for  special  groups  and  individuals,  for  then  their  differences  become 
all  the  more  conspicuous. 

The  great  challenge  to  the  modern  period,  and  its  peculiar  danger,  has 
been  that  in  it  man  for  the  first  time  confronted  man  without  the  protection 
of  differing  circumstances  and  conditions.  And  it  has  been  precisely  this  new 
concept  of  equality  that  has  made  modern  race  relations  so  difficult,  for  there 
we  deal  with  natural  differences  which  by  no  possible  and  conceivable 
change  of  conditions  can  become  less  conspicuous.  It  is  because  equality 
demands  that  I recognize  each  and  every  individual  as  my  equal,  that  the 
conflicts  between  different  groups,  which  for  reasons  of  their  own  are  re- 
luctant to  grant  each  other  this  basic  equality,  take  on  such  terribly  cruel 



Hence  the  more  equal  the  Jewish  condition,  the  more  surprising  were 
Jewish  differences.  This  new  awareness  led  to  social  resentment  against  the 
Jews  and  at  the  same  time  to  a peculiar  attraction  toward  them;  the  com- 
bined reactions  determined  the  social  history  of  Western  Jewry.  Discrimina- 
tion, however,  as  well  as  attraction,  were  politically  sterile.  They  neither 
produced  a political  movement  against  the  Jews  nor  served  in  any  way  to 
protect  them  against  their  enemies.  They  did  succeed,  though,  in  poisoning 
the  social  atmosphere,  in  perverting  all  social  intercourse  between  Jews  and 
Gentiles,  and  had  a definite  effect  on  Jewish  behavior.  The  formation  of  a 
Jewish  type  was  due  to  both — to  special  discrimination  and  to  special  favor. 

Social  antipathy  for  Jews,  with  its  varying  forms  of  discrimination,  did 
no  great  political  harm  in  European  countries,  for  genuine  social  and  eco- 
nomic equality  was  never  achieved.  To  all  appearances  new  classes  de- 
veloped as  groups  to  which  one  belonged  by  birth.  There  is  no  doubt  that 
it  was  only  in  such  a framework  that  society  could  suffer  the  Jews  to  establish 
themselves  as  a special  clique. 

The  situation  would  have  been  entirely  different  if,  as  in  the  United 
States,  equality  of  condition  had  been  taken  for  granted;  if  every  member  of 
society — from  whatever  stratum — had  been  firmly  convinced  that  by  ability 
and  luck  he  might  become  the  hero  of  a success  story.  In  such  a society, 
discrimination  becomes  the  only  means  of  distinction,  a kind  of  universal 
law  according  to  which  groups  may  find  themselves  outside  the  sphere  of 
civic,  political,  and  economic  equality.  Where  discrimination  is  not  tied 
up  with  the  Jewish  issue  only,  it  can  become  a crystallization  point  for  a 
political  movement  that  wants  to  solve  all  the  natural  difficulties  and  con- 
flicts of  a multinational  country  by  violence,  mob  rule,  and  the  sheer  vul- 
garity of  race  concepts.  It  is  one  of  the  most  promising  and  dangerous  para- 
doxes of  the  American  Republic  that  it  dared  to  realize  equality  on  the  basis 
of  the  most  unequal  population  in  the  world,  physically  and  historically. 
In  the  United  States,  social  antisemitism  may  one  day  become  the  very 
dangerous  nucleus  for  a political  movement.1  In  Europe,  however,  it  had 
little  influence  on  the  rise  of  political  antisemitism. 

1 Although  Jews  stood  out  more  than  other  groups  in  the  homogeneous  populations 
of  European  countries,  it  does  not  follow  that  they  are  more  threatened  by  discrimina- 
tion than  other  groups  in  America.  In  fact,  up  to  now,  not  the  Jews  but  the  Negroes — 
by  nature  and  history  the  most  unequal  among  the  peoples  of  America — have  borne 
the  burden  of  social  and  economic  discrimination. 

This  could  change,  however,  if  a political  movement  ever  grew  out  of  this  merely 
social  discrimination.  Then  Jews  might  very  suddenly  become  the  principal  objects 
of  hatred  for  the  simple  reason  that  they,  alone  among  all  other  groups,  have  them- 
selves, within  their  history  and  their  religion,  expressed  a well-known  principle  of 
separation.  This  is  not  true  of  the  Negroes  or  Chinese,  who  are  therefore  less  en- 
dangered politically,  even  though  they  may  differ  more  from  the  majority  than  the 



I:  Between  Pariah  and  Parvenu 

tuf  precarious  balance  between  society  and  state,  upon  which  the  nation- 
state  rested  socially  and  politically,  brought  about  a peculiar  law  governing 
Jewish  admission  to  society.  During  the  150  years  when  Jews  truly  lived 
amidst,  and  not  just  in  the  neighborhood  of,  Western  European  peoples, 
they  always  had  to  pay  with  political  misery  for  social  glory  and  with  social 
insult  for  political  success.  Assimilation,  in  the  sense  of  acceptance  by  non- 
Jcwish  society,  was  granted  them  only  as  long  as  they  were  clearly  distin- 
guished exceptions  from  the  Jewish  masses  even  though  they  still  shared 
the  same  restricted  and  humiliating  political  conditions,  or  later  only  when, 
after  an  accomplished  emancipation  and  resulting  social  isolation,  their 
political  status  was  already  challenged  by  antisemitic  movements.  Society, 
confronted  with  political,  economic,  and  legal  equality  for  Jews,  made  it 
quite  clear  that  none  of  its  classes  was  prepared  to  grant  them  social  equality, 
and  that  only  exceptions  from  the  Jewish  people  would  be  received.  Jews 
who  heard  the  strange  compliment  that  they  were  exceptions,  exceptional 
Jews,  knew  quite  well  that  it  was  this  very  ambiguity — that  they  were  Jews 
and  yet  presumably  not  like  Jews — which  opened  the  doors  of  society  to 
them.  If  they  desired  this  kind  of  intercourse,  they  tried,  therefore,  “to  be 
and  yet  not  to  be  Jews.”  2 

The  seeming  paradox  had  a solid  basis  in  fact.  What  non-Jewish  society 
demanded  was  that  the  newcomer  be  as  “educated”  as  itself,  and  that, 
although  he  not  behave  like  an  “ordinary  Jew,”  he  be  and  produce  some- 
thing out  of  the  ordinary,  since,  after  all,  he  was  a Jew.  All  advocates  of 
emancipation  called  for  assimilation,  that  is,  adjustment  to  and  reception  by, 
society,  which  they  considered  either  a preliminary  condition  to  Jewish 
emancipation  or  its  automatic  consequence.  In  other  words,  whenever  those 
who  actually  tried  to  improve  Jewish  conditions  attempted  to  think  of  the 
Jewish  question  from  the  point  of  view  of  the  Jews  themselves,  they  im- 
mediately approached  it  merely  in  its  social  aspect.  It  has  been  one  of  the 
most  unfortunate  facts  in  the  history  of  the  Jewish  people  that  only  its 
enemies,  and  almost  never  its  friends,  understood  that  the  Jewish  question 
was  a political  one. 

The  defenders  of  emancipation  tended  to  present  the  problem  as  one  of 
“education,”  a concept  which  originally  applied  to  Jews  as  well  as  non- 
Jews.3  It  was  taken  for  granted  that  the  vanguard  in  both  camps  would  con- 

2 This  surprisingly  apt  observation  was  made  by  the  liberal  Protestant  theologian 
H.  E.  G.  Paulus  in  a valuable  little  pamphlet.  Die  jiidische  N ationalabsonderung  nach 
Ursprung,  Folgen  und  Besserungsmitteln,  1831.  Paulus,  much  attacked  by  Jewish 
writers  of  the  time,  advocated  a gradual  individual  emancipation  on  the  basis  of 

This  attitude  is  expressed  in  Wilhelm  v.  Humboldt’s  “Expert  Opinion”  of  1809: 

The  state  should  not  exactly  teach  respect  for  the  Jews,  but  should  abolish  an  in- 



sist  of  specially  “educated,”  tolerant,  cultured  persons.  It  followed,  of 
course,  that  the  particularly  tolerant,  educated  and  cultured  non-Jews  could 
be  bothered  socially  only  with  exceptionally  educated  Jews.  As  a matter 
of  course,  the  demand,  among  the  educated,  for  the  abolition  of  prejudice 
was  very  quickly  to  become  a rather  one-sided  affair,  until  only  the  Jews, 
finally,  were  urged  to  educate  themselves. 

This,  however,  is  only  one  side  of  the  matter.  Jews  were  exhorted  to  be- 
come educated  enough  not  to  behave  like  ordinary  Jews,  but  they  were,  on 
the  other  hand,  accepted  only  because  they  were  Jews,  because  of  their 
foreign,  exotic  appeal.  In  the  eighteenth  century,  this  had  its  source  in  the 
new  humanism  which  expressly  wanted  “new  specimens  of  humanity” 
(Herder),  intercourse  with  whom  would  serve  as  an  example  of  possible 
intimacy  with  all  types  of  mankind.  To  the  enlightened  Berlin  of* Mendels- 
sohn’s time,  the  Jews  served  as  living  proof  that  all  men  are  human.  For 
this  generation,  friendship  with  Mendelssohn  or  Markus  Herz  was  an  ever- 
renewed  demonstration  of  the  dignity  of  man.  And  because  Jews  were  a 
despised  and  oppressed  people,  they  were  for  it  an  even  purer  and  more 
exemplary  model  of  mankind.  It  was  Herder,  an  outspoken  friend  of  the 
Jews,  who  first  used  the  later  misused  and  misquoted  phrase,  “strange  people 
of  Asia  driven  into  our  regions.” * *  4 5 With  these  words,  he  and  his  fellow- 
humanists  greeted  the  “new  specimens  of  humanity”  for  whom  the  eighteenth 
century  had  “searched  the  earth,”  6 only  to  find  them  in  their  age-old  neigh- 
bors. Eager  to  stress  the  basic  unity  of  mankind,  they  wanted  to  show  the 
origins  of  the  Jewish  people  as  more  alien,  and  hence  more  exotic,  than 
they  actually  were,  so  that  the  demonstration  of  humanity  as  a universal 
principle  might  be  more  effective. 

For  a few  decades  at  the  turn  of  the  eighteenth  century,  when  French 
Jewry  already  enjoyed  emancipation  and  German  Jewry  had  almost  no 
hope  or  desire  for  it,  Prussia’s  enlightened  intelligentsia  made  “Jews  all  over 
the  world  turn  their  eyes  to  the  Jewish  community  in  Berlin”  6 (and  not  in 
Paris!).  Much  of  this  was  due  to  the  success  of  Lessing’s  Nathan  the  Wise, 
or  to  its  misinterpretation,  which  held  that  the  “new  specimens  of  humanity,” 
because  they  had  become  examples  of  mankind,  must  also  be  more  intensely 
human  individuals.7  Mirabeau  was  strongly  influenced  by  this  idea  and  used 
to  cite  Mendelssohn  as  his  example.8  Herder  hoped  that  educated  Jews  would 

human  and  prejudiced  way  of  thinking  etc.  ...”  In  Ismar  Freund,  Die  Emancipation 

der  Juden  in  Preussen,  Berlin,  1912,  II,  270. 

4 J.  G.  Herder,  “Uber  die  politische  Bekehrung  der  Juden”  in  Adrastea  und  das  18. 
Jahrhundert,  1801-03. 

5 Herder,  Brief e zur  Beforderung  der  Humanitdt  (1793-97),  40.  Brief. 

6 Felix  Priebatsch,  “Die  Judenpolitik  des  fiirstlichen  Absolutismus  im  17.  und  18. 
Jahrhundert,”  in  Forschungen  und  Versuche  zur  Geschichte  des  Mittelalters  und  der 
Neuzeit , 1915,  p.  646. 

7 Lessing  himself  had  no  such  illusions.  His  last  letter  to  Moses  Mendelssohn  ex- 
pressed most  clearly  what  he  wanted:  “the  shortest  and  safest  way  to  that  European 
country  without  either  Christians  or  Jews.”  For  Lessing’s  attitude  toward  Jews,  see 
Franz  Mehring,  Die  Lessinglegende,  1906. 

8 See  Honore  Q.  R.  de  Mirabeau,  Sur  Moses  Mendelssohn,  London,  1788. 



show  a greater  freedom  from  prejudice  because  “the  Jew  is  free  of  certain 
political  judgments  which  it  is  very  hard  or  impossible  for  us  to  abandon.” 
Protesting  against  the  habit  of  the  time  of  granting  “concessions  of  new 
mercantile  advantages,”  he  proposed  education  as  the  true  road  to  emancipa- 
tion of  Jews  from  Judaism,  from  “the  old  and  proud  national  prejudices,  . . . 

customs  that  do  not  belong  to  our  age  and  constitutions,”  so  that  Jews  could 
become  “purely  humanized,”  and  of  service  to  “the  development  of  the 
sciences  and  the  entire  culture  of  mankind.  9 At  about  the  same  time, 
Goethe  wrote  in  a review  of  a book  of  poems  that  their  author,  a Polish 
Jew,  did  “not  achieve  more  than  a Christian  etudiant  en  belles  lettres,”  and 
complained  that  where  he  had  expected  something  genuinely  new,  some 
force  beyond  shallow  convention,  he  had  found  ordinary  mediocrity.10 

One  can  hardly  overestimate  the  disastrous  effect  of  this  exaggerated  good 
will  on  the  newly  Westernized,  educated  Jews  and  the  impact  it  had  on 
their  social  and  psychological  position.  Not  only  were  they  faced  with  the 
demoralizing  demand  that  they  be  exceptions  to  their  own  people,  recognize 
“the  sharp  difference  between  them  and  the  others,”  and  ask  that  such 
“separation  ...  be  also  legalized”  by  the  governments; 11  they  were  ex- 
pected even  to  become  exceptional  specimens  of  humanity.  And  since  this, 
and  not  Heine’s  conversion,  constituted  the  true  “ticket  of  admission”  into 
cultured  European  society,  what  else  could  these  and  future  generations  of 
Jews  do  but  try  desperately  not  to  disappoint  anybody?  12 

In  the  early  decades  of  this  entry  into  society,  when  assimilation  had  not 
yet  become  a tradition  to  follow,  but  something  achieved  by  few  and  ex- 
ceptionally gifted  individuals,  it  worked  very  well  indeed.  While  France  was 
the  land  of  political  glory  for  the  Jews,  the  first  to  recognize  them  as  citizens, 
Prussia  seemed  on  the  way  to  becoming  the  country  of  social  splendor. 
Enlightened  Berlin,  where  Mendelssohn  had  established  close  connections 
with  many  famous  men  of  his  time,  was  only  a beginning.  His  connections 
with  non-Jewish  society  still  had  much  in  common  with  the  scholarly  ties 
that  had  bound  Jewish  and  Christian  learned  men  together  in  nearly  all 
periods  of  European  history.  The  new  and  surprising  element  was  that 

°J.  G.  Herder,  “Ueber  die  politische  Bekehrung  der  Juden,”  op.  cit. 

10  Johann  Wolfgang  v.  Goethe’s  review  of  Isachar  Falkensohn  Behr,  Gedichte  eines 
polnischen  Juden , Mietau  and  Leipzig,  1772,  in  Frankfurter  Gelehrte  Anzeigen. 

11  Friedrich  Schleiermacher,  Brief e bei  Gelegenheit  der  politisch  theologischen  Auf- 
gabe  und  des  Sendschreibens  jiidischer  Hausvdter,  1799,  in  Werke,  1846,  Abt.  I,  Band 
V,  34. 

12  This  does  not,  however,  apply  to  Moses  Mendelssohn,  who  hardly  knew  the 
thoughts  of  Herder,  Goethe,  Schleiermacher,  and  other  members  of  the  younger 
generation.  Mendelssohn  was  revered  for  his  uniqueness.  His  firm  adherence  to  his 
Jewish  religion  made  it  impossible  for  him  to  break  ultimately  with  the  Jewish  people, 
which  his  successors  did  as  a matter  of  course.  He  felt  he  was  “a  member  of  an 
oppressed  people  who  must  beg  for  the  good  will  and  protection  of  the  governing 
nation”  (see  his  “Letter  to  Lavater,”  1770,  in  Gesammelte  Schriften , Vol.  VII,  Berlin, 
1930);  that  is,  he  always  knew  that  the  extraordinary  esteem  for  his  person  paralleled 
an  extraordinary  contempt  for  his  people.  Since  he,  unlike  Jews  of  following  genera- 
lions,  did  not  share  this  contempt,  he  did  not  consider  himself  an  exception. 



Mendelssohn’s  friends  used  these  relationships  for  nonpersonal,  ideological, 
or  even  political  purposes.  He  himself  explicitly  disavowed  all  such  ulterior 
motives  and  expressed  time  and  again  his  complete  satisfaction  with  the 
conditions  under  which  he  had  to  live,  as  though  he  had  foreseen  that  his 
exceptional  social  status  and  freedom  had  something  to  do  with  the  fact 
that  he  still  belonged  to  “the  lowliest  inhabitants  of  the  (Prussian  king’s) 
domain.”  13 

This  indifference  to  political  and  civil  rights  survived  Mendelssohn’s  inno- 
cent relationships  with  the  learned  and  enlightened  men  of  his  time;  it  was 
carried  later  into  the  salons  of  those  Jewish  women  who  gathered  together 
the  most  brilliant  society  Berlin  was  ever  to  see.  Not  until  after  the  Prussian 
defeat  of  1806,  when  the  introduction  of  Napoleonic  legislation  into  large 
regions  of  Germany  put  the  question  of  Jewish  emancipation  on  the  agenda 
of  public  discussion,  did  this  indifference  change  into  outright  fear.  Emanci- 
pation would  liberate  the  educated  Jews,  together  with  the  “backward” 
Jewish  people,  and  their  equality  would  wipe  out  that  precious  distinction, 
upon  which,  as  they  were  very  well  aware,  their  social  status  was  based. 
When  the  emancipation  finally  came  to  pass,  most  assimilated  Jews  escaped 
into  conversion  to  Christianity,  characteristically  finding  it  bearable  and  not 
dangerous  to  be  Jews  before  emancipation,  but  not  after. 

Most  representative  of  these  salons,  and  the  genuinely  mixed  society  they 
brought  together  in  Germany,  was  that  of  Rahel  Varnhagen.  Her  original, 
unspoiled,  and  unconventional  intelligence,  combined  with  an  absorbing 
interest  in  people  and  a truly  passionate  nature,  made  her  the  most  brilliant 
and  the  most  interesting  of  these  Jewish  women.  The  modest  but  famous 
soirees  in  Rahel’s  “garret”  brought  together  “enlightened”  aristocrats,  mid- 
dle-class intellectuals,  and  actors — that  is,  all  those  who,  like  the  Jews,  did 
not  belong  to  respectable  society.  Thus  Rahel’s  salon,  by  definition  and 
intentionally,  was  established  on  the  fringe  of  society,  and  did  not  share 
any  of  its  conventions  or  prejudices. 

It  is  amusing  to  note  how  closely  the  assimilation  of  Jews  into  society 
followed  the  precepts  Goethe  had  proposed  for  the  education  of  his  Wil- 
helm Meister , a novel  which  was  to  become  the  great  model  of  middle-class 
education.  In  this  book  the  young  burgher  is  educated  by  noblemen  and 

13  The  Prussia  which  Lessing  had  described  as  “Europe’s  most  enslaved  country” 
was  to  Mendelssohn  “a  state  in  which  one  of  the  wisest  princes  who  ever  ruled  men 
has  made  the  arts  and  sciences  flourish,  has  made  national  freedom  of  thought  so 
general  that  its  beneficent  effects  reach  even  the  lowliest  inhabitants  of  his  domain.” 
Such  humble  contentment  is  touching  and  surprising  if  one  realizes  that  the  “wisest 
prince”  had  made  it  very  hard  for  the  Jewish  philosopher  to  get  permission  to  sojourn 
in  Berlin  and,  at  a time  when  his  Miinzjuden  enjoyed  all  privileges,  did  not  even  grant 
him  the  regular  status  of  a “protected  Jew.”  Mendelssohn  was  even  aware  that  he, 
the  friend  of  all  educated  Germany,  would  be  subject  to  the  same  tax  levied  upon 
an  ox  led  to  the  market  if  ever  he  decided  to  visit  his  friend  Lavater  in  Leipzig,  but 
no  political  conclusion  regarding  the  improvement  of  such  conditions  ever  occurred 
to  him.  (See  the  “Letter  to  Lavater,”  op.  cit.,  and  his  preface  to  his  translation  of 
Menasseh  Ben  Israel  in  Gesammelte  Schriften,  Vol.  Ill,  Leipzig,  1843-45.) 



actors,  so  that  he  may  learn  how  to  present  and  represent  his  individuality, 
and  thereby  advance  from  the  modest  status  of  a burgher’s  son  into  a noble- 
man. For  the  middle  classes  and  for  the  Jews,  that  is,  for  those  who  were 
actually  outside  of  high  aristocratic  society,  everything  depended  upon  “per- 
sonality” and  the  ability  to  express  it.  To  know  how  to  play  the  role  of  what 
one  actually  was,  seemed  the  most  important  thing.  The  peculiar  fact  that 
in  Germany  the  Jewish  question  was  held  to  be  a question  of  education  was 
closely  connected  with  this  early  start  and  had  its  consequence  in  the  educa- 
tional philistinism  of  both  the  Jewish  and  non-Jewish  middle  classes,  and 
also  in  the  crowding  of  Jews  into  the  liberal  professions. 

The  charm  of  the  early  Berlin  salons  was  that  nothing  really  mattered 
but  personality  and  the  uniqueness  of  character,  talent,  and  expression. 
Such  uniqueness,  which  alone  made  possible  an  almost  unbounded  com- 
munication and  unrestricted  intimacy,  could  be  replaced  neither  by  rank, 
money,  success,  nor  literary  fame.  The  brief  encounter  of  true  personalities, 
which  joined  a Hohenzollern  prince,  Louis  Ferdinand,  to  the  banker  Abra- 
ham Mendelssohn;  or  a political  publicist  and  diplomat,  Friedrich  Gentz, 
to  Friedrich  Schlegcl,  a writer  of  the  then  ultramodern  romantic  school — 
these  were  a few  of  the  more  famous  visitors  at  Rahel’s  “garret” — came  to 
an  end  in  1806  when,  according  to  their  hostess,  this  unique  meeting  place 
“foundered  like  a ship  containing  the  highest  enjoyment  of  life.”  Along 
with  the  aristocrats,  the  romantic  intellectuals  became  antisemitic,  and  al- 
though this  by  no  means  meant  that  either  group  gave  up  all  its  Jewish 
friends,  the  innocence  and  splendor  were  gone. 

The  real  turning  point  in  the  social  history  of  German  Jews  came  not  in 
the  year  of  the  Prussian  defeat,  but  two  years  later,  when,  in  1808,  the 
government  passed  the  municipal  law  giving  full  civic,  though  not  political, 
rights  to  the  Jews.  In  the  peace  treaty  of  1807,  Prussia  had  lost  with  her 
eastern  provinces  the  majority  of  her  Jewish  population;  the  Jews  left  within 
her  territory  were  “protected  Jews”  in  any  event,  that  is,  they  already  en- 
joyed civic  rights  in  the  form  of  individual  privileges.  The  municipal  eman- 
cipation only  legalized  these  privileges,  and  outlived  the  general  emancipa- 
tion decree  of  1812;  Prussia,  having  regained  Posen  and  its  Jewish  masses 
after  the  defeat  of  Napoleon,  practically  rescinded  the  decree  of  1812,  which 
now  would  have  meant  political  rights  even  for  poor  Jews,  but  left  the  mu- 
nicipal law  intact. 

Though  of  little  political  importance  so  far  as  the  actual  improvement  of 
the  Jews’  status  is  concerned,  these  final  emancipation  decrees  together 
with  the  loss  of  the  provinces  in  which  the  majority  of  Prussian  Jews  lived, 
had  tremendous  social  consequences.  Before  1807,  the  protected  Jews  of 
Prussia  had  numbered  only  about  20  per  cent  of  the  total  Jewish  population. 
By  the  time  the  emancipation  decree  was  issued,  protected  Jews  formed  the 
majority  in  Prussia,  with  only  10  per  cent  of  “foreign  Jews”  left  for  contrast. 
Now  the  dark  poverty  and  backwardness  against  which  “exception  Jews” 
of  wealth  and  education  had  stood  out  so  advantageously  was  no  longer 



there.  And  this  background,  so  essential  as  a basis  of  comparison  for  social 
success  and  psychological  self-respect,  never  again  became  what  it  had  been 
before  Napoleon.  When  the  Polish  provinces  were  regained  in  1816,  the 
formerly  “protected  Jews”  (now  registered  as  Prussian  citizens  of  Jewish 
faith)  still  numbered  above  60  per  cent.14 

Socially  speaking,  this  meant  that  the  remaining  Jews  in  Prussia  had  lost 
the  native  background  against  which  they  had  been  measured  as  exceptions. 
Now  they  themselves  composed  such  a background,  but  a contracted  one, 
against  which  the  individual  had  to  strain  doubly  in  order  to  stand  out  at  all. 
“Exception  Jews”  were  once  again  simply  Jews,  not  exceptions  from  but 
representatives  of  a despised  people.  Equally  bad  was  the  social  influence  of 
governmental  interference.  Not  only  the  classes  antagonistic  to  the  govern- 
ment and  therefore  openly  hostile  to  the  Jews,  but  all  strata  of  society,  be- 
came more  or  less  aware  that  Jews  of  their  acquaintance  were  not  so  much 
individual  exceptions  as  members  of  a group  in  whose  favor  the  state  was 
ready  to  take  exceptional  measures.  And  this  was  precisely  what  the  “ex- 
ception Jews”  had  always  feared. 

Berlin  society  left  the  Jewish  salons  with  unmatched  rapidity,  and  by 
1808  these  meeting-places  had  already  been  supplanted  by  the  houses  of  the 
titled  bureaucracy  and  the  upper  middle  class.  One  can  see,  from  any  of 
the  numerous  correspondences  of  the  time,  that  the  intellectuals  as  well  as 
the  aristocrats  now  began  to  direct  their  contempt  for  the  Eastern  European 
Jews,  whom  they  hardly  knew,  against  the  educated  Jews  of  Berlin,  whom 
they  knew  very  well.  The  latter  would  never  again  achieve  the  self-respect 
that  springs  from  a collective  consciousness  of  being  exceptional;  henceforth, 
each  one  of  them  had  to  prove  that  although  he  was  a Jew,  yet  he  was  not 
a Jew.  No  longer  would  it  suffice  to  distinguish  oneself  from  a more  or  less 
unknown  mass  of  “backward  brethren”;  one  had  to  stand  out — as  an  in- 
dividual who  could  be  congratulated  on  being  an  exception — from  “the 
Jew,”  and  thus  from  the  people  as  a whole. 

Social  discrimination,  and  not  political  antisemitism,  discovered  the  phan- 
tom of  “the  Jew.”  The  first  author  to  make  the  distinction  between  the 
Jewish  individual  and  “the  Jew  in  general,  the  Jew  everywhere  and  no- 
where” was  an  obscure  publicist  who  had,  in  1 802,  written  a biting  satire  on 
Jewish  society  and  its  hunger  for  education,  the  magic  wand  for  general 
social  acceptance.  Jews  were  depicted  as  a “principle”  of  philistine  and  up- 
start society.15  This  rather  vulgar  piece  of  literature  not  only  was  read  with 
delight  by  quite  a few  prominent  members  of  Rahel’s  salon,  but  even  indi- 
rectly inspired  a great  romantic  poet,  Clemens  von  Brentano,  to  write  a 

14  See  Heinrich  Silbergleit,  Die  Bevolkerungs-  und  Berufsverhaltnisse  der  Juden  im 
Deutschen  Reich,  Vol.  I,  Berlin,  1930. 

15  C.  W.  F.  Grattenauer’s  widely  read  pamphlet  Wider  die  Juden  of  1802  had  been 
preceded  as  far  back  as  1791  by  another,  Ueber  die  physische  und  moralische  Verf as- 
sung  der  heutigen  Juden  in  which  the  growing  influence  of  the  Jews  in  Berlin  was 
already  pointed  out.  Although  the  early  pamphlet  was  reviewed  in  the  Allgemeine 
Deutsche  Bibliothek,  1792,  Vol.  CXII,  almost  nobody  ever  read  it. 



very  witty  paper  in  which  again  the  philistine  was  identified  with  the  Jew.16 

With  the  early  idyll  of  a mixed  society  something  disappeared  which  was 
never,  in  any  other  country  and  at  any  other  time,  to  return.  Never  again 
did  any  social  group  accept  Jews  with  a free  mind  and  heart.  It  would  be 
friendly  with  Jews  either  because  it  was  excited  by  its  own  daring  and  “wick- 
edness" or  as  a protest  against  making  pariahs  of  fellow-citizens.  But  social 
pariahs  the  Jews  did  become  wherever  they  had  ceased  to  be  political  and 
civil  outcasts. 

It  is  important  to  bear  in  mind  that  assimilation  as  a group  phenomenon 
really  existed  only  among  Jewish  intellectuals.  It  is  no  accident  that  the 
first  educated  Jew,  Moses  Mendelssohn,  was  also  the  first  who,  despite  his 
low  civic  status,  was  admitted  to  non-Jewish  society.  The  court  Jews  and 
their  successors,  the  Jewish  bankers  and  businessmen  in  the  West,  were 
never  socially  acceptable,  nor  did  they  care  to  leave  the  very  narrow  limits 
of  their  invisible  ghetto.  In  the  beginning  they  were  proud,  like  all  un- 
spoiled upstarts,  of  the  dark  background  of  misery  and  poverty  from  which 
they  had  risen;  later,  when  they  were  attacked  from  all  sides,  they  had  a 
vested  interest  in  the  poverty  and  even  backwardness  of  the  masses  because 
it  became  an  argument,  a token  of  their  own  security.  Slowly,  and  with  mis- 
givings, they  were  forced  away  from  the  more  rigorous  demands  of  Jewish 
law — they  never  left  religious  traditions  altogether — yet  demanded  all  the 
more  orthodoxy  from  the  Jewish  masses.17  The  dissolution  of  Jewish  com- 
munal autonomy  made  them  that  much  more  eager  not  only  to  protect 
Jewish  communities  against  the  authorities,  but  also  to  rule  over  them  with 
the  help  of  the  state,  so  that  the  phrase  denoting  the  “double  dependence” 
of  poor  Jews  on  “both  the  government  and  their  wealthy  brethren”  only 
reflected  reality.18 

The  Jewish  notables  (as  they  were  called  in  the  nineteenth  century)  ruled 

10  Clemens  Brenlano’s  Der  Philister  vor,  in  und  nach  der  Geschichte  was  written 
for  and  read  to  the  so-called  Christlich-Deutsche  Tischgescllschcift,  a famous  club  of 
writers  and  patriots,  founded  in  1808  for  the  struggle  against  Napoleon. 

17  Thus  the  Rothschilds  in  the  1820’s  withdrew  a large  donation  from  their  native 
community  of  Frankfurt,  in  order  to  counteract  the  influence  of  reformers  who 
wanted  Jewish  children  to  receive  a general  education.  See  Isaak  Markus  Jost,  Neuere 
Geschichte  der  Israeli  ten,  1846,  X,  102. 

18  Op.  cit.,  IX,  38. — The  court  Jews  and  the  rich  Jewish  bankers  who  followed  in 
their  footsteps  never  wanted  to  leave  the  Jewish  community.  They  acted  as  its  rep- 
resentatives and  protectors  against  public  authorities;  they  were  frequently  granted 
official  power  over  communities  which  they  ruled  from  afar  so  that  the  old  autonomy 
of  Jewish  communities  was  undermined  and  destroyed  from  within  long  before  it 
was  abolished  by  the  nation-state.  The  first  court  Jew  with  monarchical  aspirations  in 
his  own  “naiion”  was  a Jew  of  Prague,  a purveyor  of  supplies  to  the  Elector  Maurice 
of  Saxony  in  the  sixteenth  century.  He  demanded  that  all  rabbis  and  community 
heads  be  selected  from  members  of  his  family.  (See  Bondy-Dworsky,  Geschichte  der 
Judcn  in  liochmen,  Machrcn  und  Schlesien,  Prague,  1906,  II,  727.)  The  practice  of 
installing  court  Jews  as  dictators  in  their  communities  became  general  in  the  eighteenth 
century  and  was  followed  by  the  rule  of  “notables”  in  the  nineteenth  century. 



the  Jewish  communities,  but  they  did  not  belong  to  them  socially  or  even 
geographically.  They  stood,  in  a sense,  as  far  outside  Jewish  society  as  they 
did  outside  Gentile  society.  Having  made  brilliant  individual  careers  and 
been  granted  considerable  privileges  by  their  masters,  they  formed  a kind 
of  community  of  exceptions  with  extremely  limited  social  opportunities. 
Naturally  despised  by  court  society,  lacking  business  connections  with  the 
non-Jewish  middle  class,  their  social  contacts  were  as  much  outside  the  laws 
of  society  as  their  economic  rise  had  been  independent  of  contemporary 
economic  conditions.  This  isolation  and  independence  frequently  gave  them 
a feeling  of  power  and  pride,  illustrated  by  the  following  anecdote  told  in 
the  beginning  eighteenth  century:  “A  certain  Jew  . . . , when  gently 
reproached  by  a noble  and  cultured  physician  with  (the  Jewish)  pride  al- 
though they  had  no  princes  among  them  and  no  part  in  government  . . . 
replied  with  insolence:  We  are  not  princes,  but  we  govern  them.”  19 

Such  pride  is  almost  the  opposite  of  class  arrogance,  which  developed 
but  slowly  among  the  privileged  Jews.  Ruling  as  absolute  princes  among 
their  own  people,  they  still  felt  themselves  to  be  primi  inter  pares . They 
were  prouder  of  being  a “privileged  Rabbi  of  all  Jewry”  or  a “Prince  of  the 
Holy  Land”  than  of  any  titles  their  masters  might  offer  them.20  Until  the 
middle  of  the  eighteenth  century,  they  would  all  have  agreed  with  the 
Dutch  Jew  who  said:  “Neque  in  toto  orbi  alicui  nationi  inservimus  ” and 
neither  then  nor  later  would  they  have  understood  fully  the  answer  of  the 
“learned  Christian”  who  replied:  “But  this  means  happiness  only  for  a few. 
The  people  considered  as  a corpo  (sic)  is  hunted  everywhere,  has  no  self- 
government,  is  subject  to  foreign  rule,  has  no  power  and  no  dignity,  and 
wanders  all  over  the  world,  a stranger  everywhere.”  21 

Class  arrogance  came  only  when  business  connections  were  established 
among  state  bankers  of  different  countries;  intermarriage  between  leading 
families  soon  followed,  and  culminated  in  a real  international  caste  system, 
unknown  thus  far  in  Jewish  society.  This  was  all  the  more  glaring  to  non- 
Jewish  observers,  since  it  took  place  when  the  old  feudal  estates  and  castes 
were  rapidly  disappearing  into  new  classes.  One  concluded,  very  wrongly, 
that  the  Jewish  people  were  a remnant  of  the  Middle  Ages  and  did  not  see 
that  this  new  caste  was  of  quite  recent  birth.  It  was  completed  only  in  the 
nineteenth  century  and  comprised  numerically  no  more  than  perhaps  a 
hundred  families.  But  since  these  were  in  the  limelight,  the  Jewish  people 
as  a whole  came  to  be  regarded  as  a caste.22 

Great,  therefore,  as  the  role  of  the  court  Jews  had  been  in  political  his- 
tory and  for  the  birth  of  antisemitism,  social  history  might  easily  neglect 

19  Johann  Jacob  Schudt,  Jiidische  Merkwiirdigkeiten,  Frankfurt  a.M.,  1715-1717, 
IV,  Annex,  48. 

20  Selma  Stern,  Jud  Suess,  Berlin,  1929,  pp.  18  f. 

21  Schudt,  op.  cit.,  I,  19. 

22  Christian  Friedrich  Ruehs  defines  the  whole  Jewish  people  as  a “caste  of  mer- 
chants.” “Ueber  die  Anspriiche  der  Juden  an  das  deutsche  Biirgerrecht,”  in  Zeitschrift 
fiir  die  neueste  Geschichte,  1815. 



them  were  it  not  for  the  fact  that  they  had  certain  psychological  traits  and 
behavior  patterns  in  common  with  Jewish  intellectuals  who  were,  after  all, 
usually  the  sons  of  businessmen.  The  Jewish  notables  wanted  to  dominate 
the  Jewish  people  and  therefore  had  no  desire  to  leave  it,  while  it  was  char- 
acteristic of  Jewish  intellectuals  that  they  wanted  to  leave  their  people  and 
be  admitted  to  society;  they  both  shared  the  feeling  that  they  were  exceptions, 
a feeling  perfectly  in  harmony  with  the  judgment  of  their  environment.  The 
“exception  Jews"  of  wealth  felt  like  exceptions  from  the  common  destiny 
of  the  Jewish  people  and  were  recognized  by  the  governments  as  exception- 
ally useful;  the  “exception  Jews"  of  education  felt  themselves  exceptions  from 
the  Jewish  people  and  also  exceptional  human  beings,  and  were  recognized 
as  such  by  society. 

Assimilation,  whether  carried  to  the  extreme  of  conversion  or  not,  never 
was  a real  menace  to  the  survival  of  the  Jews.23  Whether  they  were  welcomed 
or  rejected,  it  was  because  they  were  Jews,  and  they  were  well  aware  of  it. 
The  first  generations  of  educated  Jews  still  wanted  sincerely  to  lose  their 
identity  as  Jews,  and  Boerne  wrote  with  a great  deal  of  bitterness,  “Some 
reproach  me  with  being  a Jew,  some  praise  me  because  of  it,  some  pardon 
me  for  it,  but  all  think  of  it.”  24  Still  brought  up  on  eighteenth-century  ideas, 
they  longed  for  a country  without  either  Christians  or  Jews;  they  had  de- 
voted themselves  to  science  and  the  arts,  and  were  greatly  hurt  when  they 
found  out  that  governments  which  would  give  every  privilege  and  honor  to 
a Jewish  banker,  condemned  Jewish  intellectuals  to  starvation.25  The  con- 
versions which,  in  the  early  nineteenth  century,  had  been  prompted  by  fear 
of  being  lumped  together  with  the  Jewish  masses,  now  became  a necessity 
for  daily  bread.  Such  a premium  on  lack  of  character  forced  a whole  genera- 
tion of  Jews  into  bitter  opposition  against  state  and  society.  The  “new 
specimens  of  humanity,”  if  they  were  worth  their  salt,  all  became  rebels,  and 
since  the  most  reactionary  governments  of  the  period  were  supported  and 
financed  by  Jewish  bankers,  their  rebellion  was  especially  violent  against 
the  official  representatives  of  their  own  people.  The  anti-Jewish  denuncia- 
tions of  Marx  and  Boerne  cannot  be  properly  understood  except  in  the 
light  of  this  conflict  between  rich  Jews  and  Jewish  intellectuals. 

This  conflict,  however,  existed  in  full  vigor  only  in  Germany  and  did  not 
survive  the  antiscmitic  movement  of  the  century.  In  Austria,  there  was  no 
Jewish  intelligentsia  to  speak  of  before  the  end  of  the  nineteenth  century, 

23  A remarkable,  though  little-known,  fact  is  that  assimilation  as  a program  led 
much  more  frequently  to  conversion  than  to  mixed  marriage.  Unfortunately  statistics 
cover  up  rather  than  reveal  this  fact  because  they  consider  all  unions  between  con- 
verted and  nonconverted  Jewish  partners  to  be  mixed  marriages.  We  know,  however, 
that  there  were  quite  a number  of  families  in  Germany  who  had  been  baptized  for 
generations  and  yet  remained  purely  Jewish.  That  the  converted  Jew  only  rarely  left 
his  family  and  even  more  rarely  left  his  Jewish  surroundings  altogether,  accounts  for 
this.  The  Jewish  family,  at  any  rate,  proved  to  be  a more  conserving  force  than 
Jewish  religion. 

24  Briefe  aus  Paris . 74th  Letter,  February,  1832. 

25  Ibid.,  72nd  Letter. 



when  it  felt  immediately  the  whole  impact  of  antisemitic  pressure.  These 
Jews,  like  their  wealthy  brethren,  preferred  to  trust  themselves  to  the 
Hapsburg  monarchy’s  protection,  and  became  socialist  only  after  the  first 
World  War,  when  the  Social  Democratic  party  came  to  power.  The  most 
significant,  though  not  the  only,  exception  to  this  rule  was  Karl  Kraus,  the 
last  representative  of  the  tradition  of  Heine,  Boerne,  and  Marx.  Kraus’s 
denunciations  of  Jewish  businessmen  on  one  hand,  and  Jewish  journalism 
as  the  organized  cult  of  fame  on  the  other,  were  perhaps  even  more  bitter 
than  those  of  his  predecessors  because  he  was  so  much  more  isolated  in  a 
country  where  no  Jewish  revolutionary  tradition  existed.  In  France,  where 
the  emancipation  decree  had  survived  all  changes  of  governments  and  re- 
gimes, tbe  small  number  of  Jewish  intellectuals  were  neither  the  forerunners 
of  a new  class  nor  especially  important  in  intellectual  life.  Culture  as  such, 
education  as  a program,  did  not  form  Jewish  behavior  patterns  as  it  did  in 

In  no  other  country  had  there  been  anything  like  the  short  period  of  true 
assimilation  so  decisive  for  the  history  of  German  Jews,  when  the  real  van- 
guard of  a people  not  only  accepted  Jews,  but  was  even  strangely  eager  to 
associate  with  them.  Nor  did  this  attitude  ever  completely  disappear  from 
German  society.  To  the  very  end,  traces  of  it  could  easily  be  discerned,  which 
showed,  of  course,  that  relations  with  Jews  never  came  to  be  taken  for 
granted.  At  best  it  remained  a program,  at  worst  a strange  and  exciting  ex- 
perience. Bismarck’s  well-known  remark  about  “German  stallions  to  be 
paired  off  with  Jewish  mares,”  is  but  the  most  vulgar  expression  of  a prevalent 
point  of  view. 

It  is  only  natural  that  this  social  situation,  though  it  made  rebels  out  of 
the  first  educated  Jews,  would  in  the  long  run  produce  a specific  kind  of 
conformism  rather  than  an  effective  tradition  of  rebellion.26  Conforming  to 
a society  which  discriminated  against  “ordinary”  Jews  and  in  which,  at  the 
same  time,  it  was  generally  easier  for  an  educated  Jew  to  be  admitted  to 
fashionable  circles  than  for  a non-Jew  of  similar  condition,  Jews  had  to 
differentiate  themselves  clearly  from  the  “Jew  in  general,”  and  just  as  clearly 
to  indicate  that  they  were  Jews;  under  no  circumstances  were  they  allowed 
simply  to  disappear  among  their  neighbors.  In  order  to  rationalize  an  am- 
biguity which  they  themselves  did  not  fully  understand,  they  might  pretend 
to  “be  a man  in  the  street  and  a Jew  at  home.”  27  This  actually  amounted  to 
a feeling  of  being  different  from  other  men  in  the  street  because  they  were 
Jews,  and  different  from  other  Jews  at  home  because  they  were  not  like 
“ordinary  Jews.” 

20  The  “conscious  pariah”  (Bernard  Lazare)  was  the  only  tradition  of  rebellion 
which  established  itself,  although  those  who  belonged  to  it  were  hardly  aware  of  its 
existence.  See  the  author’s  “The  Jew  as  Pariah.  A Hidden  Tradition,”  in  Jewish  Social 
Studies,  Vol.  VI,  No.  2 (1944). 

27  It  is  not  without  irony  that  this  excellent  formula,  which  may  serve  as  a motto 
for  Western  European  assimilation,  was  propounded  by  a Russian  Jew  and  first  pub- 
lished in  Hebrew.  It  comes  from  Judah  Leib  Gordon’s  Hebrew  poem,  Hakitzah  ami, 
1863.  See  S.  M.  Dubnow,  History  of  the  Jews  in  Russia  and  Poland,  1918,  II,  228  f. 



The  behavior  patterns  of  assimilated  Jews,  determined  by  this  continuous 
concentrated  effort  to  distinguish  themselves,  created  a Jewish  type  that  is 
recognizable  everywhere.  Instead  of  being  defined  by  nationality  or  religion, 
Jews  were  being  transformed  into  a social  group  whose  members  shared 
certain  psychological  attributes  and  reactions,  the  sum  total  of  which  was 
supposed  to  constitute  “Jewishness.”  In  other  words,  Judaism  became  a 
psychological  quality  and  the  Jewish  question  became  an  involved  personal 
problem  for  every  individual  Jew. 

In  his  tragic  endeavor  to  conform  through  differentiation  and  distinction, 
the  new  Jewish  type  had  as  little  in  common  with  the  feared  “Jew  in  gen- 
eral” as  with  that  abstraction,  the  “heir  of  the  prophets  and  eternal  pro- 
moter of  justice  on  earth,”  which  Jewish  apologetics  conjured  up  whenever 
a Jewish  journalist  was  being  attacked.  The  Jew  of  the  apologists  was  en- 
dowed with  attributes  that  are  indeed  the  privileges  of  pariahs,  and  which 
certain  Jewish  rebels  living  on  the  fringe  of  society  did  possess — humanity, 
kindness,  freedom  from  prejudice,  sensitiveness  to  injustice.  The  trouble 
was  that  these  qualities  had  nothing  to  do  with  the  prophets  and  that,  worse 
still,  these  Jews  usually  belonged  neither  to  Jewish  society  nor  to  fashionable 
circles  of  non-Jcwish  society.  In  the  history  of  assimilated  Jewry,  they  played 
but  an  insignificant  role.  The  “Jew  in  general,”  on  the  other  hand,  as  de- 
scribed by  professional  Jew-haters,  showed  those  qualities  which  the  par- 
venu must  acquire  if  he  wants  to  arrive — inhumanity,  greed,  insolence, 
cringing  servility,  and  determination  to  push  ahead.  The  trouble  in  this  case 
was  that  these  qualities  have  also  nothing  to  do  with  national  attributes  and 
that,  moreover,  these  Jewish  business-class  types  showed  little  inclination 
for  non-Jewish  society  and  played  almost  as  small  a part  in  Jewish  social 
history.  As  long  as  defamed  peoples  and  classes  exist,  parvenu-  and  pariah- 
qualities  will  be  produced  anew  by  each  generation  with  incomparable 
monotony,  in  Jewish  society  and  everywhere  else. 

For  the  formation  of  a social  history  of  the  Jews  within  nineteenth- 
century  European  society,  it  was,  however,  decisive  that  to  a certain  extent 
every  Jew  in  every  generation  had  somehow  at  some  time  to  decide  whether 
he  would  remain  a pariah  and  stay  out  of  society  altogether,  or  become  a 
parvenu,  or  conform  to  society  on  the  demoralizing  condition  that  he  not  so 
much  hide  his- origin  as  “betray  with  the  secret  of  his  origin  the  secret  of  his 
people  as  well.”  28  The  latter  road  was  difficult,  indeed,  as  such  secrets  did 
not  exist  and  had  to  be  made  up.  Since  Rahel  Vamhagen’s  unique  attempt 
to  establish  a social  life  outside  of  official  society  had  failed,  the  way  of  the 
pariah  and  the  parvenu  were  equally  ways  of  extreme  solitude,  and  the  way 
of  conformism  one  of  constant  regret.  The  so-called  complex  psychology  of 
the  average  Jew,  which  in  a few  favored  cases  developed  into  a very  modem 
sensitiveness,  was  based  on  an  ambiguous  situation.  Jews  felt  simultaneously 
the  pariah’s  regret  at  not  having  become  a parvenu  and  the  parvenu’s  bad 
conscience  at  having  betrayed  his  people  and  exchanged  equal  rights  for 

28  This  formulation  was  made  by  Karl  Kraus  around  1912.  See  Untergang  der  Welt 
durch  schwarze  Magie,  1925. 



personal  privileges.  One  thing  was  certain:  if  one  wanted  to  avoid  all  am- 
biguities of  social  existence,  one  had  to  resign  oneself  to  the  fact  that  to  be 
a Jew  meant  to  belong  either  to  an  overprivileged  upper  class  or  to  an 
underprivileged  mass  which,  in  Western  and  Central  Europe,  one  could  be- 
long to  only  through  an  intellectual  and  somewhat  artificial  solidarity. 

The  social  destinies  of  average  Jews  were  determined  by  their  eternal 
lack  of  decision.  And  society  certainly  did  not  compel  them  to  make  up  their 
minds,  for  it  was  precisely  this  ambiguity  of  situation  and  character  that 
made  the  relationship  with  Jews  attractive.  The  majority  of  assimilated  Jews 
thus  lived  in  a twilight  of  favor  and  misfortune  and  knew  with  certainty  only 
that  both  success  and  failure  were  inextricably  connected  with  the  fact  that 
they  were  Jews.  For  them  the  Jewish  question  had  lost,  once  and  for  all,  all 
political  significance;  but  it  haunted  their  private  lives  and  influenced  their 
personal  decisions  all  the  more  tyrannically.  The  adage,  “a  man  in  the  street 
and  a Jew  at  home,”  was  bitterly  realized:  political  problems  were  distorted 
to  the  point  of  pure  perversion  when  Jews  tried  to  solve  them  by  means  of 
inner  experience  and  private  emotions;  private  life  was  poisoned  to  the  point 
of  inhumanity — for  example  in  the  question  of  mixed  marriages — when  the 
heavy  burden  of  unsolved  problems  of  public  significance  was  crammed 
into  that  private  existence  which  is  much  better  ruled  by  the  unpredictable 
laws  of  passion  than  by  considered  policies. 

It  was  by  no  means  easy  not  to  resemble  the  “Jew  in  general”  and  yet  re- 
main a Jew;  to  pretend  not  to  be  like  Jews  and  still  show  with  sufficient 
clarity  that  one  was  Jewish.  The  average  Jew,  neither  a parvenu  nor  a 
“conscious  pariah”  (Bernard  Lazare),  could  only  stress  an  empty  sense  of 
difference  which  continued  to  be  interpreted,  in  all  its  possible  psychological 
aspects  and  variations  from  innate  strangeness  to  social  alienation.  As  long 
as  the  world  was  somewhat  peaceful,  this  attitude  did  not  work  out  badly  and 
for  generations  even  became  a modus  vivendi.  Concentration  on  an  artifi- 
cially complicated  inner  life  helped  Jews  to  respond  to  the  unreasonable 
demands  of  society,  to  be  strange  and  exciting,  to  develop  a certain  imme- 
diacy of  self-expression  and  presentation  which  were  originally  the  attributes 
of  the  actor  and  the  virtuoso,  people  whom  society  has  always  half  denied 
and  half  admired.  Assimilated  Jews,  half  proud  and  half  ashamed  of  their 
Jewishness,  clearly  were  in  this  category. 

The  process  by  which  bourgeois  society  developed  out  of  the  ruins  of  its 
revolutionary  traditions  and  memories  added  the  black  ghost  of  boredom 
to  economic  saturation  and  general  indifference  to  political  questions.  Jews 
became  people  with  whom  one  hoped  to  while  away  some  time.  The  less 
one  thought  of  them  as  equals,  the  more  attractive  and  entertaining  they 
became.  Bourgeois  society,  in  its  search  for  entertainment  and  its  passionate 
interest  in  the  individual,  insofar  as  he  differed  from  the  norm  that  is  man, 
discovered  the  attraction  of  everything  that  could  be  supposed  to  be  mys- 
teriously wicked  or  secretly  vicious.  And  precisely  this  feverish  preference 
opened  the  doors  of  society  to  Jews;  for  within  the  framework  of  this  society, 
Jewishness,  after  having  been  distorted  into  a psychological  quality,  could 



easily  be  perverted  into  a vice.  The  Enlightenment  s genuine  tolerance  and 
curiosity  for  everything  human  was  being  replaced  by  a morbid  lust  for  the 
exotic,  abnormal,  and  different  as  such.  Several  types  in  society,  one  after 
the  other,  represented  the  exotic,  the  anomalous,  the  different,  but  none  of 
them  was  in  the  least  connected  with  political  questions.  Thus  only  the  role  of 
Jews  in  this  decaying  society  could  assume  a stature  that  transcended  the 
narrow  limits  of  a society  affair. 

Before  we  follow  the  strange  ways  which  led  the  “exception  Jews,”  famous 
and  notorious  strangers,  into  the  salons  of  the  Faubourg  St.  Germain  in 
fin-de-siecle  France,  we  must  recall  the  only  great  man  whom  the  elaborate 
self-deception  of  the  “exception  Jews”  ever  produced.  It  seems  that  every 
commonplace  idea  gets  one  chance  in  at  least  one  individual  to  attain  what 
used  to  be  called  historical  greatness.  The  great  man  of  the  “exception  Jews” 
was  Benjamin  Disraeli. 

ii : The  Potent  Wizard  29 

benjamin  disraeli,  whose  chief  interest  in  life  was  the  career  of  Lord 
Beaconsficld,  was  distinguished  by  two  things:  first,  the  gift  of  the  gods 
which  we  moderns  banally  call  luck,  and  which  other  periods  revered  as  a 
goddess  named  Fortune,  and  second,  more  intimately  and  more  wondrously 
connected  with  Fortune  than  one  may  be  able  to  explain,  the  great  carefree 
innocence  of  mind  and  imagination  which  makes  it  impossible  to  classify  the 
man  as  a careerist,  though  he  never  thought  seriously  of  anything  except  his 
career.  His  innocence  made  him  recognize  how  foolish  it  would  be  to  feel 
declassi  and  how  much  more  exciting  it  would  be  for  himself  and  for  others, 
how  much  more  useful  for  his  career,  to  accentuate  the  fact  that  he  was  a 
Jew  “by  dressing  differently,  combing  his  hair  oddly,  and  by  queer  manners 
of  expression  and  verbiage.”  30  He  cared  for  admission  to  high  and  highest 
society  more  passionately  and  shamelessly  than  any  other  Jewish  intellectual 
did;  but  he  was  the  only  one  of  them  who  discovered  the  secret  of  how  to 
preserve  luck,  that  natural  miracle  of  pariahdom,  and  who  knew  from  the  be- 
ginning that  one  never  should  bow  down  in  order  to  “move  up  from  high  to 

He  played  the  game  of  politics  like  an  actor  in  a theatrical  performance, 
except  that  he  played  his  part  so  well  that  he  was  convinced  by  his  own 
make-believe.  His  life  and  his  career  read  like  a fairy-tale,  in  which  he  ap- 
peared as  the  prince — offering  the  blue  flower  of  the  romantics,  now  the 
primrose  of  imperialist  England,  to  his  princess,  the  Queen  of  England. 

20  The  title  phrase  is  taken  from  a sketch  of  Disraeli  by  Sir  John  Skleton  in  1867. 
See  W.  F.  Monypcnny  and  G.  E.  Buckle,  The  Life  of  Benjamin  Disraeli,  Earl  of 
Beaconsfield,  New  York,  1929,  II,  292-93. 

80  Morris  S.  Lazaron,  Seed  of  Abraham , New  York,  1930,  “Benjamin  Disraeli,” 
pp.  260  ff. 



The  British  colonial  enterprise  was  the  fairyland  upon  which  the  sun  never 
sets  and  its  capital  the  mysterious  Asiatic  Delhi  whence  the  prince  wanted 
to  escape  with  his  princess  from  foggy  prosaic  London.  This  may  have  been 
foolish  and  childish;  but  when  a wife  writes  to  her  husband  as  Lady  Beacons- 
field  wrote  to  hers:  “You  know  you  married  me  for  money,  and  I know 
that  if  you  had  to  do  it  again  you  would  do  it  for  love,”  31  one  is  silenced 
before  a happiness  that  seemed  to  be  against  all  the  rules.  Here  was  one  who 
started  out  to  sell  his  soul  to  the  devil,  but  the  devil  did  not  want  the  soul 
and  the  gods  gave  him  all  the  happiness  of  this  earth. 

Disraeli  came  from  an  entirely  assimilated  family;  his  father,  an  en- 
lightened gentleman,  baptized  the  son  because  he  wanted  him  to  have  the 
opportunities  of  ordinary  mortals.  He  had  few  connections  with  Jewish 
society  and  knew  nothing  of  Jewish  religion  or  customs.  Jewishness,  from 
the  beginning,  was  a fact  of  origin  which  he  was  at  liberty  to  embellish,  un- 
hindered by  actual  knowledge.  The  result  was  that  somehow  he  looked  at 
this  fact  much  in  the  same  way  as  a Gentile  would  have  looked  at  it.  He 
realized  much  more  clearly  than  other  Jews  that  being  a Jew  could  be  as 
much  an  opportunity  as  a handicap.  And  since,  unlike  his  simple  and  modest 
father,  he  wanted  nothing  less  than  to  become  an  ordinary  mortal  and 
nothing  more  than  “to  distinguish  himself  above  all  his  contemporaries,”  32 
he  began  to  shape  his  “olive  complexion  and  coal-black  eyes”  until  he  with 
“the  mighty  dome  of  his  forehead — no  Christian  temple,  to  be  sure — (was) 
unlike  any  living  creature  one  has  met.”  33  He  knew  instinctively  that  every- 
thing depended  upon  the  “division  between  him  and  mere  mortals,”  upon 
an  accentuation  of  his  lucky  “strangeness.” 

All  this  demonstrates  a unique  understanding  of  society  and  its  rules. 
Significantly,  it  was  Disraeli  who  said,  “What  is  a crime  among  the  multi- 
tude is  only  a vice  among  the  few”  34 — perhaps  the  most  profound  insight 
into  the  very  principle  by  which  the  slow  and  insidious  decline  of  nineteenth- 
century  society  into  the  depth  of  mob  and  underworld  morality  took  place. 
Since  he  knew  this  rule,  he  knew  also  that  Jews  would  have  no  better  chances 
anywhere  than  in  circles  which  pretended  to  be  exclusive  and  to  discriminate 
against  them;  for  inasmuch  as  these  circles  of  the  few,  together  with  the 
multitude,  thought  of  Jewishness  as  a crime,  this  “crime”  could  be  trans- 
formed at  any  moment  into  an  attractive  “vice.”  Disraeli’s  display  of  exoti- 
cism, strangeness,  mysteriousness,  magic,  and  power  drawn  from  secret 
sources,  was  aimed  correctly  at  this  disposition  in  society.  And  it  was  his 
virtuosity  at  the  social  game  which  made  him  choose  the  Conservative 
Party,  won  him  a seat  in  Parliament,  the  post  of  Prime  Minister,  and,  last 

31  Horace  B.  Samuel,  “The  Psychology  of  Disraeli,”  in  Modernities,  London,  1914. 

32  J.  A.  Froude  thus  closes  his  biography  of  Lord  Beaconsfield,  1890:  “The  aim 
with  which  he  started  in  life  was  to  distinguish  himself  above  all  his  contemporaries, 
and  wild  as  such  an  ambition  must  have  appeared,  he  at  last  won  the  stake  for  which 
he  played  so  bravely.” 

83  Sir  John  Skleton,  op . cit. 

34  In  his  novel  Tancred,  1847. 



but  not  least,  the  lasting  admiration  of  society  and  the  friendship  of  a 

One  of  the  reasons  for  his  success  was  the  sincerity  of  his  play.  The  im- 
pression he  made  on  his  more  unbiased  contemporaries  was  a curious  mix- 
ture of  acting  and  “absolute  sincerity  and  unreserve.”  35  This  could  only  be 
achieved  by  a genuine  innocence  that  was  partly  due  to  an  upbringing  from 
which  all  specific  Jewish  influence  had  been  excluded.36  But  Disraeli’s  good 
conscience  was  also  due  to  his  having  been  born  an  Englishman.  England 
did  not  know  Jewish  masses  and  Jewish  poverty,  as  she  had  admitted  them 
centuries  after  their  expulsion  in  the  Middle  Ages;  the  Portuguese  Jews  who 
settled  in  England  in  the  eighteenth  century  were  wealthy  and  educated. 
Not  until  the  end  of  the  nineteenth  century,  when  the  pogroms  in  Russia 
initiated  the  modern  Jewish  emigrations,  did  Jewish  poverty  enter  London, 
and  along  with  it  the  difference  between  the  Jewish  masses  and  their  well- 
to-do  brethren.  In  Disraeli’s  time  the  Jewish  question,  in  its  Continental 
form,  was  quite  unknown,  because  only  Jews  welcome  to  the  state  lived 
in  England.  In  other  words,  the  English  “exception  Jews”  were  not  so  aware 
of  being  exceptions  as  their  Continental  brothers  were.  When  Disraeli 
scorned  the  “pernicious  doctrine  of  modern  times,  the  natural  equality  of 
men,”  37  he  consciously  followed  in  the  footsteps  of  Burke  who  had  “pre- 
ferred the  rights  of  an  Englishman  to  the  Rights  of  Man,”  but  ignored  the 
actual  situation  in  which  privileges  for  the  few  had  been  substituted  for  rights 
for  all.  He  was  so  ignorant  of  the  real  conditions  among  the  Jewish  people, 
and  so  convinced  of  “the  influence  of  the  Jewish  race  upon  modern  com- 
munities,” that  he  frankly  demanded  that  the  Jews  “receive  all  that  honour 
and  favour  from  the  northern  and  western  races,  which,  in  civilized  and 
refined  nations,  should  be  the  lot  of  those  who  charm  the  public  taste  and 
elevate  the  public  feeling.”  38  Since  political  influence  of  Jews  in  England 
centered  around  the  English  branch  of  the  Rothschilds,  he  felt  very  proud 
about  the  Rothschilds’  help  in  defeating  Napoleon  and  did  not  see  any 
reason  why  he  should  not  be  outspoken  in  his  political  opinions  as  a Jew.39 
As  a baptized  Jew,  he  was  of  course  never  an  official  spokesman  for  any 
Jewish  community,  but  it  remains  true  that  he  was  the  only  Jew  of  his  kind 
and  his  century  who  tried  as  well  as  he  knew  to  represent  the  Jewish  people 

Disraeli,  who  never  denied  that  “the  fundamental  fact  about  (him)  was 
that  he  was  a Jew,”  40  had  an  admiration  for  all  things  Jewish  that  was 
matched  only  by  his  ignorance  of  them.  The  mixture  of  pride  and  ignorance 

85  Sir  John  Skleton,  op.  cit. 

3fl  Disraeli  himself  reported:  “I  was  not  bred  among  my  race  and  was  nourished 
in  great  prejudice  against  them.”  For  his  family  background,  see  especially  Joseph 
Caro,  Benjamin  Disraeli,  Juden  und  Judentum,”  in  Monatsschrift  fur  Geschichte  und 
Wissenschaft  des  Judentums,  1932,  Jahrgang  76. 

87  Lord  George  Bentinck.  A Political  Biography,  London,  1852,  496. 

**  Ibid.,  p.  491. 

3t>  Ibid.,  pp.  497  ff. 

40  Monypenny  and  Buckle,  op.  cit.,  p.  1507. 



in  these  matters,  however,  was  characteristic  of  all  the  newly  assimilated 
Jews.  The  great  difference  is  that  Disraeli  knew  even  a little  less  of  Jewish 
past  and  present  and  therefore  dared  to  speak  out  openly  what  others  be- 
trayed in  the  half-conscious  twilight  of  behavior  patterns  dictated  by  fear 
and  arrogance. 

The  political  result  of  Disraeli’s  ability  to  gauge  Jewish  possibilities  by  the 
political  aspirations  of  a normal  people  was  more  serious;  he  almost  auto- 
matically produced  the  entire  set  of  theories  about  Jewish  influence  and 
organization  that  we  usually  find  in  the  more  vicious  forms  of  antisemitism. 
First  of  all,  he  actually  thought  of  himself  as  the  “chosen  man  of  the  chosen 
race.”  41  What  better  proof  was  there  than  his  own  career:  a Jew  without 
name  and  riches,  helped  only  by  a few  Jewish  bankers,  was  carried  to  the 
position  of  the  first  man  in  England;  one  of  the  less  liked  men  of  Parliament 
became  Prime  Minister  and  earned  genuine  popularity  among  those  who  for 
a long  time  had  “regarded  him  as  a charlatan  and  treated  him  as  a pariah.”  42 
Political  success  never  satisfied  him.  It  was  more  difficult  and  more  important 
to  be  admitted  to  London’s  society  than  to  conquer  the  House  of  Commons, 
and  it  was  certainly  a greater  triumph  to  be  elected  a member  of  Grillion’s 
dining  club — “a  select  coterie  of  which  it  has  been  customary  to  make  rising 
politicians  of  both  parties,  but  from  which  the  socially  objectionable  are 
rigorously  excluded”  43 — than  to  be  Her  Majesty’s  Minister.  The  delightfully 
unexpected  climax  of  all  these  sweet  triumphs  was  the  sincere  friendship  of 
the  Queen,  for  if  the  monarchy  in  England  had  lost  most  of  its  political 
prerogatives  in  a strictly  controlled,  constitutional  nation-state,  it  had  won 
and  retained  undisputed  primacy  in  English  society.  In  measuring  the  great- 
ness of  Disraeli’s  triumph,  one  should  remember  that  Lord  Robert  Cecil, 
one  of  his  eminent  colleagues  in  the  Conservative  Party,  could  still,  around 
1850,  justify  a particularly  bitter  attack  by  stating  that  he  was  only  “plainly 
speaking  out  what  every  one  is  saying  of  Disraeli  in  private  and  no  one  will 
say  in  public.”  44  Disraeli’s  greatest  victory  was  that  finally  nobody  said  in 
private  what  would  not  have  flattered  and  pleased  him  if  it  had  been  said  in 
public.  It  was  precisely  this  unique  rise  to  genuine  popularity  which  Disraeli 
had  achieved  through  a policy  of  seeing  only  the  advantages,  and  preaching 
only  the  privileges,  of  being  born  a Jew. 

Part  of  Disraeli’s  good  fortune  is  the  fact  that  he  always  fitted  his  time, 
and  that  consequently  his  numerous  biographers  understood  him  more  com- 
pletely than  is  the  case  with  most  great  men.  He  was  a living  embodiment  of 
ambition,  that  powerful  passion  which  had  developed  in  a century  seemingly 
not  allowing  for  any  distinctions  and  differences.  Carlyle,  at  any  rate,  who 
interpreted  the  whole  world’s  history  according  to  a nineteenth-century 
ideal  of  the  hero,  was  clearly  in  the  wrong  when  he  refused  a title  from 

41  Horace  S.  Samuel,  op.  cit. 

42  Monypenny  and  Buckle,  op.  cit.,  p.  147. 

43  Ibid. 

44  Robert  Cecil’s  article  appeared  in  the  most  authoritative  organ  of  the  Tories, 
the  Quarterly  Review.  See  Monypenny  and  Buckle,  op.  cit.,  pp.  19-22. 



Disraeli’s  hands.45  No  other  man  among  his  contemporaries  corresponded 
to  Carlyle’s  heroes  as  well  as  Disraeli,  with  his  concept  of  greatness  as 
such,  emptied  of  all  specific  achievements;  no  other  man  fulfilled  so  exactly 
the  demands  of  the  late  nineteenth  century  for  genius  in  the  flesh  as  this 
charlatan  who  took  his  role  seriously  and  acted  the  great  part  of  the  Great 
Man  with  genuine  naivete  and  an  overwhelming  display  of  fantastic  tricks 
and  entertaining  artistry.  Politicians  fell  in  love  with  the  charlatan  who  trans- 
formed boring  business  transactions  into  dreams  with  an  oriental  flavor; 
and  when  society  sensed  an  aroma  of  black  magic  in  Disraeli’s  shrewd 
dealings,  the  “potent  wizard”  had  actually  won  the  heart  of  his  time. 

Disraeli’s  ambition  to  distinguish  himself  from  other  mortals  and  his 
longing  for  aristocratic  society  were  typical  of  the  middle  classes  of  his  time 
and  country.  Neither  political  reasons  nor  economic  motives,  but  the  im- 
petus of  his  social  ambition,  made  him  join  the  Conservative  Party  and 
follow  a policy  that  would  always  “select  the  Whigs  for  hostility  and  the 
Radicals  for  alliance.”  46  In  no  European  country  did  the  middle  classes 
ever  achieve  enough  self-respect  to  reconcile  their  intelligentsia  with  their 
social  status,  so  that  aristocracy  could  continue  to  determine  the  social  scale 
when  it  had  already  lost  all  political  significance.  The  unhappy  German 
philistine  discovered  his  “innate  personality”  in  his  desperate  struggle  against 
caste  arrogance,  which  had  grown  out  of  the  decline  of  nobility  and  the 
necessity  to  protect  aristocratic  titles  against  bourgeois  money.  Vague  blood 
theories  and  strict  control  of  marriages  are  rather  recent  phenomena  in  the 
history  of  European  aristocracy.  Disraeli  knew  much  better  than  the  German 
Philistines  what  was  required  to  meet  the  demands  of  aristocracy.  All  at- 
tempts of  the  bourgeoisie  to  attain  social  status  failed  to  convince  aristo- 
cratic arrogance  because  they  reckoned  with  individuals  and  lacked  the 
most  important  element  of  caste  conceit,  the  pride  in  privilege  without 
individual  effort  and  merit,  simply  by  virtue  of  birth.  The  “innate  person- 
ality” could  never  deny  that  its  development  demanded  education  and  special 
effort  of  the  individual.  When  Disraeli  “summoned  up  a pride  of  race  to 
confront  a pride  of  caste,”  47  he  knew  that  the  social  status  of  the  Jews, 
whatever  else  might  be  said  of  it,  at  least  depended  solely  on  the  fact  of  birth 
and  not  on  achievement. 

Disraeli  went  even  a step  further.  He  knew  that  the  aristocracy,  which 
year  after  year  had  to  see  quite  a number  of  rich  middle-class  men  buy  titles, 
was  haunted  by  very  serious  doubts  of  its  own  value.  He  therefore  defeated 
them  at  their  game  by  using  his  rather  trite  and  popular  imagination  to 
describe  fearlessly  how  the  Englishmen  “came  from  a parvenu  and  hybrid 
race,  while  he  himself  was  sprung  from  the  purest  blood  in  Europe,”  how 
the  life  of  a British  peer  (was)  mainly  regulated  by  Arabian  laws  and 

This  happened  as  late  as  1874.  Carlyle  is  reported  to  have  called  Disraeli  “a 
cursed  Jew,”  "the  worst  man  who  ever  lived.”  See  Caro,  op.  cit. 

49  Lord  Salisbury  in  an  article  in  the  Quarterly  Review,  1869. 

47  E.  T.  Raymond,  Disraeli , The  Alien  Patriot,  London,  1925,  p.  1. 



Syrian  customs,”  how  “a  Jewess  is  the  queen  of  heaven”  or  that  “the  flower 
of  the  Jewish  race  is  even  now  sitting  on  the  right  hand  of  the  Lord  God  of 
Sabaoth.”  48  And  when  he  finally  wrote  that  “there  is  no  longer  in  fact  an 
aristocracy  in  England,  for  the  superiority  of  the  animal  man  is  an  essential 
quality  of  aristocracy,”  49  he  had  in  fact  touched  the  weakest  point  of  modern 
aristocratic  race  theories,  which  were  later  to  be  the  point  of  departure  for 
bourgeois  and  upstart  race  opinions. 

Judaism,  and  belonging  to  the  Jewish  people,  degenerated  into  a simple 
fact  of  birth  only  among  assimilated  Jewry.  Originally  it  had  meant  a spe- 
cific religion,  a specific  nationality,  the  sharing  of  specific  memories  and 
specific  hopes,  and,  even  among  the  privileged  Jews,  it  meant  at  least  still 
sharing  specific  economic  advantages.  Secularization  and  assimilation  of 
the  Jewish  intelligentsia  had  changed  self-consciousness  and  self-interpreta- 
tion in  such  a way  that  nothing  was  left  of  the  old  memories  and  hopes  but 
the  awareness  of  belonging  to  a chosen  people.  Disraeli,  though  certainly  not 
the  only  “exception  Jew”  to  believe  in  his  own  chosenness  without  believing 
in  Him  who  chooses  and  rejects,  was  the  only  one  who  produced  a full- 
blown race  doctrine  out  of  this  empty  concept  of  a historic  mission.  He  was  ^ 
ready  to  assert  that  the  Semitic  principle  “represents  all  that  is  spiritual  in 
our  nature,”  that  “the  vicissitudes  of  history  find  their  main  solution — all  is 
race,”  which  is  “the  key  to  history”  regardless  of  “language  and  religion,” 
for  “there  is  only  one  thing  which  makes  a race  and  that  is  blood”  and  there 
is  only  one  aristocracy,  the  “aristocracy  of  nature”  which  consists  of  “an 
unmixed  race  of  a first-rate  organization.”  50 

The  close  relationship  of  this  to  more  modern  race  ideologies  need  not;/ 
be  stressed,  and  Disraeli’s  discovery  is  one  more  proof  of  how  well  they 
serve  to  combat  feelings  of  social  inferiority.  For  if  race  doctrines  finally 
served  much  more  sinister  and  immediately  political  purposes,  it  is  still 
true  that  much  of  their  plausibility  and  persuasiveness  lay  in  the  fact  that 
they  helped  anybody  feel  himself  an  aristocrat  who  had  been  selected  by 
birth  on  the  strength  of  “racial”  qualification.  That  these  new  selected  ones 
did  not  belong  to  an  elite,  to  a selected  few — which,  after  all,  had  been  in- 
herent in  the  pride  of  a nobleman — but  had  to  share  chosenness  with  an 
ever-growing  mob,  did  no  essential  harm  to  the  doctrine,  for  those  who  did 
not  belong  to  the  chosen  race  grew  numerically  in  the  same  proportion. 

Disraeli’s  race  doctrines,  however,  were  as  much  the  result  of  his  extraor- 
dinary insight  into  the  rules  of  society  as  the  outgrowth  of  the  specific 
secularization  of  assimilated  Jewry.  Not  only  was  the  Jewish  intelligentsia 
caught  up  in  the  general  secularization  process,  which  in  the  nineteenth  cen- 
tury had  already  lost  the  revolutionary  appeal  of  the  Enlightenment  along 
with  the  confidence  in  an  independent,  self-reliant  humanity  and  therefore 
remained  without  any  protection  against  transformation  of  formerly  genuine 
religious  beliefs  into  superstitions.  The  Jewish  intelligentsia  was  exposed  also 

48  H.  B.  Samuel,  op.  cit.,  Disraeli,  Tancred,  and  Lord  George  Bentinck,  respectively. 

49  In  his  novel  Coningsby,  1844. 

50  See  Lord  George  Bentinck  and  the  novels  Endymion,  1881,  and  Coningsby. 



to  the  influences  of  the  Jewish  reformers  who  wanted  to  change  a national 
religion  into  a religious  denomination.  To  do  so,  they  had  to  transform  the 
two"  basic  elements  of  Jewish  piety — the  Messianic  hope  and  the  faith  in 
Israel’s  chosenncss,  and  they  deleted  from  Jewish  prayerbooks  the  visions  of 
an  ultimate  restoration  of  Zion,  along  with  the  pious  anticipation  of  the  day 
at  the  end  of  days  when  the  segregation  of  the  Jewish  people  from  the  nations 
of  the  earth  would  come  to  an  end.  Without  the  Messianic  hope,  the  idea 
of  chosenness  meant  eternal  segregation;  without  faith  in  chosenness,  which 
charged  one  specific  people  with  the  redemption  of  the  world,  Messianic 
hope  evaporated  into  the  dim  cloud  of  general  philanthropy  and  universalism 
which  became  so  characteristic  of  specifically  Jewish  political  enthusiasm. 

The  most  fateful  clement  in  Jewish  secularization  was  that  the  concept 
of  chosenncss  was  being  separated  from  the  Messianic  hope,  whereas  in 
Jewish  religion  these  two  elements  were  two  aspects  of  God’s  redemptory 
plan  for  mankind.  Out  of  Messianic  hope  grew  that  inclination  toward  final 
solutions  of  political  problems  which  aimed  at  nothing  less  than  establishing 
a paradise  on  earth.  Out  of  the  belief  in  chosenness  by  God  grew  that  fan- 
tastic delusion,  shared  by  unbelieving  Jews  and  non-Jews  alike,  that  Jews 
are  by  nature  more  intelligent,  better,  healthier,  more  fit  for  survival — the 
motor  of  history  and  the  salt  of  the  earth.  The  enthusiastic  Jewish  intellectual 
dreaming  of  the  paradise  on  earth,  so  certain  of  freedom  from  all  national 
ties  and  prejudices,  was  in  fact  farther  removed  from  political  reality  than 
his  fathers,  who  had  prayed  for  the  coming  of  Messiah  and  the  return  of 
the  people  to  Palestine.  The  assimilationists,  on  the  other  hand,  who  without 
any  enthusiastic  hope  had  persuaded  themselves  that  they  were  the  salt  of 
the  earth,  were  more  effectively  separated  from  the  nations  by  this  unholy 
conceit  than  their  fathers  had  been  by  the  fence  of  the  Law,  which,  as  it  was 
faithfully  believed,  separated  Israel  from  the  Gentiles  but  would  be  de- 
stroyed in  the  days  of  the  Messiah.  It  was  this  conceit  of  the  “exception 
Jews,”  who  were  too  “enlightened”  to  believe  in  God  and,  on  the  grounds 
of  their  exceptional  position  everywhere,  superstitious  enough  to  believe  in 
themselves,  that  actually  tore  down  the  strong  bonds  of  pious  hope  which 
had  tied  Israel  to  the  rest  of  mankind. 

Secularization,  therefore,  finally  produced  that  paradox,  so  decisive  for 
the  psychology  of  modern  Jews,  by  which  Jewish  assimilation — in  its  liqui- 
dation of  national  consciousness,  its  transformation  of  a national  religion 
into  a confessional  denomination,  and  its  meeting  of  the  half-hearted  and 
ambiguous  demands  of  state  and  society  by  equally  ambiguous  devices  and 
psychological  tricks — engendered  a very  real  Jewish  chauvinism,  if  by  chau- 
vinism we  understand  the  perverted  nationalism  in  which  (in  the  words  of 
Chesterton)  “the  individual  is  himself  the  thing  to  be  worshipped;  the  indi- 
vidual is  his  own  ideal  and  even  his  own  idol.”  From  now  on,  the  old 
religious  concept  of  chosenness  was  no  longer  the  essence  of  Judaism;  it 
became  instead  the  essence  of  Jewishness. 

This  paradox  has  found  its  most  powerful  and  charming  embodiment  in 
Disraeli.  He  was  an  English  imperialist  and  a Jewish  chauvinist;  but  it  is 



not  difficult  to  pardon  a chauvinism  which  was  rather  a play  of  imagination 
because,  after  all,  “England  was  the  Israel  of  his  imagination”; 51  and  it  is 
not  difficult,  either,  to  pardon  his  English  imperialism,  which  had  so  little 
in  common  with  the  single-minded  resoluteness  of  expansion  for  expansion’s 
sake,  since  he  was,  after  all,  “never  a thorough  Englishman  and  was  proud 
of  the  fact.”  52  All  those  curious  contradictions  which  indicate  so  clearly 
that  the  potent  wizard  never  took  himself  quite  seriously  and  always  played 
a role  to  win  society  and  to  find  popularity,  add  up  to  a unique  charm,  they 
introduce  into  all  his  utterances  an  element  of  charlatan  enthusiasm  and 
day-dreaming  which  makes  him  utterly  different  from  his  imperialist  fol- 
lowers. He  was  lucky  enough  to  do  his  dreaming  and  acting  in  a time  when 
Manchester  and  the  businessmen  had  not  yet  taken  over  the  imperial  dream 
and  were  even  in  sharp  and  furious  opposition  to  “colonial  adventures.” 
His  superstitious  belief  in  blood  and  race — into  which  he  mixed  old  ro- 
mantic folk  credulities  about  a powerful  supranational  connection  between 
gold  and  blood — carried  no  suspicion  of  possible  massacres,  whether  in 
Africa,  Asia,  or  Europe  proper.  He  began  as  a not  too  gifted  writer  and 
remained  an  intellectual  whom  chance  made  a member  of  Parliament, 
leader  of  his  party,  Prime  Minister,  and  a friend  of  the  Queen  of  England. 

Disraeli’s  notion  of  the  Jews’  role  in  politics  dates  back  to  the  time  when 
he  was  still  simply  a writer  and  had  not  yet  begun  his  political  career.  His 
ideas  on  the  subject  were  therefore  not  the  result  of  actual  experience,  but 
he  clung  to  them  with  remarkable  tenacity  throughout  his  later  life. 

In  his  first  novel,  Alroy  (1833),  Disraeli  evolved  a plan  for  a Jewish 
Empire  in  which  Jews  would  rule  as  a strictly  separated  class.  The  novel 
shows  the  influence  of  current  illusions  about  Jewish  power-possibilities  as 
well  as  the  young  author’s  ignorance  of  the  actual  power  conditions  of  his 
time.  Eleven  years  later,  political  experience  in  Parliament  and  intimate 
intercourse  with  prominent  men  taught  Disraeli  that  “the  aims  of  the  Jews, 
whatever  they  may  have  been  before  and  since,  were,  in  his  day,  largely 
divorced  from  the  assertion  of  political  nationality  in  any  form.”  53  In  a new 
novel,  Coningsby,  he  abandoned  the  dream  of  a Jewish  Empire  and  unfolded 
a fantastic  scheme  according  to  which  Jewish  money  dominates  the  rise  and 
fall  of  courts  and  empires  and  rules  supreme  in  diplomacy.  Never  in  his  life 
did  he  give  up  this  second  notion  of  a secret  and  mysterious  influence  of  the 
chosen  men  of  the  chosen  race,  with  which  he  replaced  his  earlier  dream  of 
an  openly  constituted,  mysterious  ruler  caste.  It  became  the  pivot  of  his 
political  philosophy.  In  contrast  to  his  much-admired  Jewish  bankers  who 
granted  loans  to  governments  and  earned  commissions,  Disraeli  looked  at 
the  whole  affair  with  the  outsider’s  incomprehension  that  such  power-possi- 
bilities could  be  handled  day  after  day  by  people  who  were  not  ambitious  for 
power.  What  he  could  not  understand  was  that  a Jewish  banker  was  even 

61  Sir  John  Skleton,  op.  cit. 

52  Horace  B.  Samuel,  op.  cit. 

63  Monypenny  and  Buckle,  op.  cit.,  p.  882. 



less  interested  in  politics  than  his  non-Jewish  colleagues;  to  Disraeli,  at  any 
rate,  it  was  a matter  of  course  that  Jewish  wealth  was  only  a means  for 
Jewish  politics.  The  more  he  learned  about  the  Jewish  bankers’  well-function- 
ing organization  in  business  matters  and  their  international  exchange  of 
news  and  information,  the  more  convinced  he  became  that  he  was  dealing 
with  something  like  a secret  society  which,  without  anybody  knowing  it, 
had  the  world’s  destinies  in  its  hands. 

It  is  well  known  that  the  belief  in  a Jewish  conspiracy  that  was  kept  to- 
gether by  a secret  society  had  the  greatest  propaganda  value  for  antisemitic 
publicity,  and  by  far  outran  all  traditional  European  superstitions  about  ritual 
murder  and  well-poisoning.  It  is  of  great  significance  that  Disraeli,  for  exactly 
opposite  purposes  and  at  a time  when  nobody  thought  seriously  of  secret 
societies,  came  to  identical  conclusions,  for  it  shows  clearly  to  what  extent 
such  fabrications  were  due  to  social  motives  and  resentments  and  how  much 
more  plausibly  they  explained  events  or  political  and  economic  activities 
than  the  more  trivial  truth  did.  In  Disraeli’s  eyes,  as  in  the  eyes  of  many  less 
well-known  and  reputable  charlatans  after  him,  the  whole  game  of  politics 
was  played  between  secret  societies.  Not  only  the  Jews,  but  every  other  group 
whose  influence  was  not  politically  organized  or  which  was  in  opposition  to 
the  whole  social  and  political  system,  became  for  him  powers  behind  the 
scenes.  In  1863,  he  thought  he  witnessed  “a  struggle  between  the  secret  so- 
cieties and  the  European  millionaires;  Rothschild  hitherto  has  won.”  54  But 
also  “the  natural  equality  of  men  and  the  abrogation  of  property  are  pro- 
claimed by  secret  societies”; 55  as  late  as  1870,  he  could  still  talk  seriously 
of  forces  “beneath  the  surface”  and  believe  sincerely  that  “secret  societies 
and  their  international  energies,  the  Church  of  Rome  and  her  claims  and 
methods,  the  eternal  conflict  between  science  and  faith”  were  at  work  to 
determine  the  course  of  human  history.60 

Disraeli’s  unbelievable  naivete  made  him  connect  all  these  “secret”  forces 
with  the  Jews.  “The  first  Jesuits  were  Jews;  that  mysterious  Russian  di- 
plomacy which  so  alarms  Western  Europe  is  organized  and  principally 
carried  on  by  Jews;  that  mighty  revolution  which  is  at  this  moment  preparing 
in  Germany  and  which  will  be  in  fact  a second  and  greater  Reformation  . . . 
is  entirely  developing  under  the  auspices  of  Jews,”  “men  of  Jewish  race  are 
found  at  the  head  of  every  one  of  (communist  and  socialist  groups).  The 
people  of  God  co-operates  with  atheists;  the  most  skilful  accumulators  of 
property  ally  themselves  with  communists,  the  peculiar  and  chosen  race 
touch  the  hands  of  the  scum  and  low  castes  of  Europe!  And  all  this  be- 
cause they  wish  to  destroy  that  ungrateful  Christendom  which  owes  them 
even  its  name  and  whose  tyranny  they  can  no  longer  endure.”  67  In  Disraeli’s 
imagination,  the  world  had  become  Jewish. 

64  Ibid.,  p.  73.  In  a letter  to  Mrs.  Brydges  Williams  of  July  21,  1863. 

65  Lord  George  Bentinck,  p.  497. 

58  In  his  novel  Lothair,  1870. 

87  Lord  George  Bentinck . 



In  this  singular  delusion,  even  that  most  ingenious  of  Hitler’s  publicity 
stunts,  the  cry  of  a secret  alliance  between  the  Jewish  capitalist  and  the 
Jewish  socialist,  was  already  anticipated.  Nor  can  it  be  denied  that  the  whole 
scheme,  imaginary  and  fantastic  as  it  was,  had  a logic  of  its  own.  If  one 
started,  as  Disraeli  did,  from  the  assumption  that  Jewish  millionaires  were 
makers  of  Jewish  politics,  if  one  took  into  account  the  insults  Jews  had  suf- 
fered for  centuries  (which  were  real  enough,  but  still  stupidly  exaggerated 
by  Jewish  apologetic  propaganda),  if  one  had  seen  the  not  infrequent  in- 
stances when  the  son  of  a Jewish  millionaire  became  a leader  of  the  workers’ 
movement  and  knew  from  experience  how  closely  knit  Jewish  family  ties 
were  as  a rule,  Disraeli’s  image  of  a calculated  revenge  upon  the  Christian 
peoples  was  not  so  far-fetched.  The  truth  was,  of  course,  that  the  sons  of 
Jewish  millionaires  inclined  toward  leftist  movements  precisely  because  their 
banker  fathers  had  never  come  into  an  open  class  conflict  with  workers. 
They  therefore  completely  lacked  that  class  consciousness  that  the  son  of 
any  ordinary  bourgeois  family  would  have  had  as  a matter  of  course,  while, 
on  the  other  side,  and  for  exactly  the  same  reasons,  the  workers  did  not 
harbor  those  open  or  hidden  antisemitic  sentiments  which  every  other  class 
showed  the  Jews  as  a matter  of  course.  Obviously  leftist  movements  in  most 
countries  offered  the  only  true  possibilities  for  assimilation. 

Disraeli’s  persistent  fondness  for  explaining  politics  in  terms  of  secret 
societies  was  based  on  experiences  which  later  convinced  many  lesser  Euro- 
pean intellectuals.  His  basic  experience  had  been  that  a place  in  English 
society  was  much  more  difficult  to  win  than  a seat  in  Parliament.  English 
society  of  his  time  gathered  in  fashionable  clubs  which  were  independent 
of  party  distinctions.  The  clubs,  although  they  were  extremely  important 
in  the  formation  of  a political  elite,  escaped  public  control.  To  an  outsider 
they  must  have  looked  very  mysterious  indeed.  They  were  secret  insofar  as 
not  everybody  was  admitted  to  them.  They  became  mysterious  only  when 
members  of  other  classes  asked  admittance  and  were  either  refused  or  ad- 
mitted after  a plethora  of  incalculable,  unpredictable,  apparently  irrational 
difficulties.  There  is  no  doubt  that  no  political  honor  could  replace  the 
triumphs  that  intimate  association  with  the  privileged  could  give.  Disraeli’s 
ambitions,  significantly  enough,  did  not  suffer  even  at  the  end  of  his  life  when 
he  experienced  severe  political  defeats,  for  he  remained  “the  most  com- 
manding figure  of  London  society.”  58 

In  his  naive  certainty  of  the  paramount  importance  of  secret  societies, 
Disraeli  was  a forerunner  of  those  new  social  strata  who,  born  outside  the 

68  Monypenny  and  Buckle,  op.  cit,  p.  1470.  This  excellent  biography  gives  a correct 
evaluation  of  Disraeli’s  triumph.  After  having  quoted  Tennyson’s  In  Memoriam , 
canto  64,  it  continues  as  follows:  “In  one  respect  Disraeli’s  success  was  more  striking 
and  complete  than  that  suggested  in  Tennyson’s  lines;  he  not  only  scaled,  the  political 
ladder  to  the  topmost  rung  and  ‘shaped  the  whisper  of  the  throne’;  he  also  conquered 
Society.  He  dominated  the  dinner-tables  and  what  we  would  call  the  salons  of  May- 
fair  . . . and  his  social  triumph,  whatever  may  be  thought  by  philosophers  of  its 
intrinsic  value,  was  certainly  not  less  difficult  of  achievement  for  a despised  outsider 
than  his  political,  and  was  perhaps  sweeter  to  his  palate”  (p.  1506). 



framework  of  society,  could  never  understand  its  rules  properly.  They  found 
themselves  in  a state  of  affairs  where  the  distinctions  between  society  and 
politics  were  constantly  blurred  and  where,  despite  seemingly  chaotic  condi- 
tions, the  same  narrow  class  interest  always  won.  The  outsider  could  not  but 
conclude  that  a consciously  established  institution  with  definite  goals 
achieved  such  remarkable  results.  And  it  is  true  that  this  whole  society  game 
needed  only  a resolute  political  will  to  transform  its  half-conscious  play  of 
interests  and  essentially  purposeless  machinations  into  a definite  policy.  This 
is  what  occurred  briefly  in  France  during  the  Dreyfus  Affair,  and  again  in 
Germany  during  the  decade  preceding  Hitler’s  rise  to  power. 

Disraeli,  however,  was  not  only  outside  of  English,  he  was  outside  of 
Jewish,  society  as  well.  He  knew  little  of  the  mentality  of  the  Jewish  bankers 
whom  he  so  deeply  admired,  and  he  would  have  been  disappointed  indeed 
had  he  realized  that  these  “exception  Jews,”  despite  exclusion  from  bour- 
geois society  (they  never  really  tried  to  be  admitted),  shared  its  foremost 
political  principle  that  political  activity  centers  around  protection  of  property 
and  profits.  Disraeli  saw,  and  was  impressed  by,  only  a group  with  no  out- 
ward political  organization,  w'hose  members  were  still  connected  by  a seem- 
ing infinity  of  family  and  business  connections.  His  imagination  went  to 
work  whenever  he  had  to  deal  with  them  and  found  everything  “proved” — 
when,  for  instance,  the  shares  of  the  Suez  Canal  were  offered  the  English 
government  through  the  information  of  Henry  Oppenheim  (who  had  learned 
that  the  Khedive  of  Egypt  was  anxious  to  sell)  and  the  sale  was  carried 
through  with  the  help  of  a four  million  sterling  loan  from  Lionel  Rothschild. 

Disraeli's  racial  convictions  and  theories  about  secret  societies  sprang, 
in  the  last  analysis,  from  his  desire  to  explain  something  apparently  mysteri- 
ous and  in  fact  chimerical.  He  could  not  make  a political  reality  out  of  the 
chimerical  powder  of  “exception  Jews”;  but  he  could,  and  did,  help  transform 
chimeras  into  public  fears  and  to  entertain  a bored  society  with  highly 
dangerous  fairy-tales. 

With  the  consistency  of  most  race  fanatics,  Disraeli  spoke  only  with  con- 
tempt of  the  “modern  newfangled  sentimental  principle  of  nationality.”  59  He 
hated  the  political  equality  at  the  basis  of  the  nation-state  and  he  feared  for 
the  survival  of  the  Jews  under  its  conditions.  He  fancied  that  race  might 
give  a social  as  well  as  political  refuge  against  equalization.  Since  he  knew 
the  nobility  of  his  time  far  better  than  he  ever  came  to  know  the  Jewish 
people,  it  is  not  surprising  that  he  modeled  the  race  concept  after  aristocratic 
caste  concepts. 

No  doubt  these  concepts  of  the  socially  underprivileged  could  have  gone 
far,  but  they  would  have  had  little  significance  in  European  politics  had  they 
not  met  with  real  political  necessities  when,  after  the  scramble  for  Africa, 
they  could  be  adapted  to  political  purposes.  This  willingness  to  believe  on  the 
part  of  bourgeois  society  gave  Disraeli,  the  only  Jew  of  the  nineteenth  cen- 
tury, his  share  of  genuine  popularity.  In  the  end,  it  was  not  his  fault  that  the 

69  Ibid.,  Vol.  I,  Book  3. 


same  trend  that  accounted  for  his  singular  great  good  fortune  finally  led  to 
the  great  catastrophe  of  his  people. 

ill:  Between  Vice  and  Crime 

Paris  has  rightly  been  called  la  capitale  du  dixneuvieme  siecle  (Walter 
Benjamin).  Full  of  promise,  the  nineteenth  century  had  started  with  the 
French  Revolution,  for  more  than  one  hundred  years  witnessed  the  vain 
struggle  against  the  degeneration  of  the  citoyen  into  the  bourgeois,  reached 
its  nadir  in  the  Dreyfus  Affair,  and  was  given  another  fourteen  years  of 
morbid  respite.  The  first  World  War  could  still  be  won  by  the  Jacobin  appeal 
of  Clemenceau,  France’s  last  son  of  the  Revolution,  but  the  glorious  century 
of  the  nation  par  excellence  was  at  an  end  G0  and  Paris  was  left;  without 
political  significance  and  social  splendor,  to  the  intellectual  avant-garde  of 
all  countries.  France  played  a very  small  part  in  the  twentieth  century,  which 
started,  immediately  after  Disraeli’s  death,  with  the  scramble  for  Africa  and 
the  competition  for  imperialist  domination  in  Europe.  Her  decline,  there- 
fore, caused  partly  by  the  economic  expansion  of  other  nations,  and  partly 
by  internal  disintegration,  could  assume  forms  and  follow  laws  which  seemed 
inherent  in  the  nation-state. 

To  a certain  extent,  what  happened  in  France  in  the  eighties  and  nineties 
happened  thirty  and  forty  years  later  in  all  European  nation-states.  Despite 
chronological  distances,  the  Weimar  and  Austrian  Republics  had  much  in 
common  historically  with  the  Third  Republic,  and  certain  political  and 
social  patterns  in  the  Germany  and  Austria  of  the  twenties  and  thirties 
seemed  almost  consciously  to  follow  the  model  of  France’s  fin-de-siecle. 

Nineteenth-century  antisemitism,  at  any  rate,  reached  its  climax  in  France 
and  was  defeated  because  it  remained  a national  domestic  issue  without 
contact  with  imperialist  trends,  which  did  not  exist  there.  The  main  features 
of  this  kind  of  antisemitism  reappeared  in  Germany  and  Austria  after  the 
first  World  War,  and  its  social  effect  on  the  respective  Jewries  was  almost 
the  same,  although  less  sharp,  less  extreme,  and  more  disturbed  by  other 
influences. 61 

60  Yves  Simon,  La  Grande  Crise  de  la  Republique  Frangaise,  Montreal,  1941,  p. 
20:  “The  spirit  of  the  French  Revolution  survived  the  defeat  of  Napoleon  for  more 
than  a century.  ...  It  triumphed  but  only  to  fade  unnoticed  on  November  11,  1918. 
The  French  Revolution?  Its  dates  must  surely  be  set  at  1789-1918.” 

61  The  fact  that  certain  psychological  phenomena  did  not  come  out  as  sharply  in 
German  and  Austrian  Jews,  may  partly  be  due  to  the  strong  hold  of  the  Zionist  move- 
ment on  Jewish  intellectuals  in  these  countries.  Zionism  in  the  decade  after  the  first 
World  War,  and  even  in  the  decade  preceding  it,  owed  its  strength  not  so  much  to 
political  insight  (and  did  not  produce  political  convictions),  as  it  did  to  its  critical 
analysis  of  psychological  reactions  and  sociological  facts.  Its  influence  was  mainly 
pedagogical  and  went  far  beyond  the  relatively  small  circle  of  actual  members  of  the 
Zionist  movement. 



The  chief  reason,  however,  for  the  choice  of  the  salons  of  the  Faubourg 
Saint-Germain  as  an  example  of  the  role  of  Jews  in  non-Jewish  society  is 
that  nowhere  else  is  there  an  equally  grand  society  or  a more  truthful  record 
of  it.  When  Marcel  Proust,  himself  half  Jewish  and  in  emergencies  ready  to 
identify  himself  as  a Jew,  set  out  to  search  for  “things  past,”  he  actually 
wrote  what  one  of  his  admiring  critics  has  called  an  apologia  pro  vita  sua. 
The  life  of  this  greatest  writer  of  twentieth-century  France  was  spent  ex- 
clusively in  society;  all  events  appeared  to  him  as  they  arc  reflected  in  society 
and  reconsidered  by  the  individual,  so  that  reflections  and  reconsiderations 
constitute  the  specific  reality  and  texture  of  Proust’s  world.62  Throughout 
the  Remembrance  of  Things  Past , the  individual  and  his  reconsiderations 
belong  to  society,  even  when  he  retires  into  the  mute  and  uncommunicative 
solitude  in  which  Proust  himself  finally  disappeared  when  he  had  decided 
to  write  his  work.  There  his  inner  life,  which  insisted  on  transforming  all 
worldly  happenings  into  inner  experience,  became  like  a mirror  in  whose 
reflection  truth  might  appear.  The  contemplator  of  inner  experience  re- 
sembles the  onlooker  in  society  insofar  as  neither  has  an  immediate  approach 
to  life  but  perceives  reality  only  if  it  is  reflected.  Proust,  bom  on  the  fringe 
of  society,  but  still  rightfully  belonging  to  it  though  an  outsider,  enlarged 
this  inner  experience  until  it  included  the  whole  range  of  aspects  as  they 
appeared  to  and  were  reflected  by  all  members  of  society. 

There  is  no  better  witness,  indeed,  of  this  period  when  society  had  eman- 
cipated itself  completely  from  public  concerns,  and  when  politics  itself 
was  becoming  a part  of  social  life.  The  victory  of  bourgeois  values  over  the 
citizen’s  sense  of  responsibility  meant  the  decomposition  of  political  issues 
into  their  dazzling,  fascinating  reflections  in  society.  It  must  be  added  that 
Proust  himself  was  a true  exponent  of  this  society,  for  he  was  involved  in 
both  of  its  most  fashionable  “vices,”  which  he,  “the  greatest  witness  of 
dejudaized  Judaism”  interconnected  in  the  “darkest  comparison  which  ever 
has  been  made  on  behalf  of  Western  Judaism”:  63  the  “vice”  of  Jewishness 
and  the  “vice”  of  homosexuality,  and  which  in  their  reflection  and  individual 
reconsideration  became  very  much  alike  indeed.64 

It  was  Disraeli  who  had  discovered  that  vice  is  but  the  corresponding 
reflection  of  crime  in  society.  Human  wickedness,  if  accepted  by  society,  is 
changed  from  an  act  of  will  into  an  inherent,  psychological  quality  which 
man  cannot  choose  or  reject  but  which  is  imposed  upon  him  from  without, 
and  which  rules  him  as  compulsively  as  the  drug  rules  the  addict.  In  as- 

62  Compare  the  interesting  remarks  on  this  subject  by  E.  Levinas,  “L’Autre  dans 
Proust"  in  Deucalion,  No.  2,  1947. 

63  J.  E.  van  Praag,  "Marcel  Proust,  Temoin  du  Judaisme  dejudaize”  in  Revue  Juive 
de  Geneve,  1937,  Nos.  48,  49,  50. 

A curious  coincidence  (or  is  it  more  than  a coincidence?)  occurs  in  the  moving- 
piciure  Crossfire  which  deals  with  the  Jewish  question.  The  story  was  taken  from 
Richard  Brooks’s  The  Brick  Foxhole,  in  which  the  murdered  Jew  of  Crossfire  was  a 

64  For  the  following  see  especially  Cities  of  the  Plain,  Part  I,  pp.  20-45. 



similating  crime  and  transforming  it  into  vice,  society  denies  all  responsibility 
and  establishes  a world  of  fatalities  in  which  men  find  themselves  entangled. 
The  moralistic  judgment  as  a crime  of  every  departure  from  the  norm,  which 
fashionable  circles  used  to  consider  narrow  and  philistine,  if  demonstrative 
of  inferior  psychological  understanding,  at  least  showed  greater  respect  for 
human  dignity.  If  crime  is  understood  to  be  a kind  of  fatality,  natural  or 
economic,  everybody  will  finally  be  suspected  of  some  special  predestination 
to  it.  “Punishment  is  the  right  of  the  criminal,”  of  which  he  is  deprived  if 
(in  the  words  of  Proust)  “judges  assume  and  are  more  inclined  to  pardon 
murder  in  inverts  and  treason  in  Jews  for  reasons  derived  from  . . . racial 
predestination.”  It  is  an  attraction  to  murder  and  treason  which  hides  behind 
such  perverted  tolerance,  for  in  a moment  it  can  switch  to  a decision  to 
liquidate  not  only  all  actual  criminals  but  all  who  are  “racially”  predestined 
to  commit  certain  crimes.  Such  changes  take  place  whenever  the  legal  and 
political  machine  is  not  separated  from  society  so  that  social  standards  can 
penetrate  into  it  and  become  political  and  legal  rules.  The  seeming  broad- 
mindedness that  equates  crime  and  vice,  if  allowed  to  establish  its  own  code 
of  law,  will  invariably  prove  more  cruel  and  inhuman  than  laws,  no  matter 
how  severe,  which  respect  and  recognize  man’s  independent  responsibility 
for  his  behavior. 

The  Faubourg  Saint-Germain,  however,  as  Proust  depicts  it,  was  in  the 
early  stages  of  this  development.  It  admitted  inverts  because  it  felt  attracted 
by  what  it  judged  to  be  a vice.  Proust  describes  how  Monsieur  de  Charlus, 
who  had  formerly  been  tolerated,  “notwithstanding  his  vice,”  for  his  per- 
sonal charm  and  old  name,  now  rose  to  social  heights.  He  no  longer  needed 
to  lead  a double  life  and  hide  his  dubious  acquaintances,  but  was  encouraged 
to  bring  them  into  the  fashionable  houses.  Topics  of  conversation  which  he 
formerly  would  have  avoided — love,  beauty,  jealousy — lest  somebody  sus- 
pect his  anomaly,  were  now  welcomed  avidly  “in  view  of  the  experience, 
strange,  secret,  refined  and  monstrous  upon  which  he  founded”  his  views.65 

Something  very  similar  happened  to  the  Jews.  Individual  exceptions, 
ennobled  Jews,  had  been  tolerated  and  even  welcomed  in  the  society  of  the 
Second  Empire,  but  now  Jews  as  such  were  becoming  increasingly  popular. 
In  both  cases,  society  was  far  from  being  prompted  by  a revision  of  preju- 
dices. They  did  not  doubt  that  homosexuals  were  “criminals”  or  that  Jews 
were  “traitors”;  they  only  revised  their  attitude  toward  crime  and  treason. 
The  trouble  with  their  new  broadmindedness,  of  course,  was  not  that  they 
were  no  longer  horrified  by  inverts  but  that  they  were  no  longer  horrified 
by  crime.  They  did  not  in  the  least  doubt  the  conventional  judgment.  The 
best-hidden  disease  of  the  nineteenth  century,  its  terrible  boredom  and 
general  weariness,  had  burst  like  an  abscess.  The  outcasts  and  the  pariahs 
upon  whom  society  called  in  its  predicament  were,  whatever  else  they  might 
have  been,  at  least  not  plagued  by  ennui  and,  if  we  are  to  trust  Proust’s 
judgment,  were  the  only  ones  in  fin-de-siecle  society  who  were  still  capable 

65  Cities  of  the  Plain,  Part  II,  chapter  iii. 



of  passion.  Proust  leads  us  through  the  labyrinth  of  social  connections  and 
ambitions  only  by  the  thread  of  man’s  capacity  for  love,  which  is  presented 
in  the  perverted  passion  of  Monsieur  de  Charlus  for  Morel,  in  the  devastat- 
ing loyalty  of  the  Jew  Swann  to  his  courtesan  and  in  the  author’s  own 
desperate  jealousy  of  Albcrtine,  herself  the  personification  of  vice  in  the 
novel.  Proust  made  it  very  clear  that  he  regarded  the  outsiders  and  new- 
comers, the  inhabitants  of  " Sodome  et  Ghomorre,”  not  only  as  more  human 
but  as  more  normal. 

The  dillcrencc  between  the  Faubourg  Sa  nt-Germain,  which  had  suddenly 
discovered  the  attractiveness  of  Jews  and  inverts,  and  the  mob  which  cried 
“Death  to  the  Jews”  was  that  the  salons  had  not  yet  associated  themselves 
openly  with  crime.  This  meant  that  on  the  one  hand  they  did  not  yet  want 
to  participate  actively  in  the  killing,  and  on  the  other,  still  professed  openly 
an  antipathy  toward  Jews  and  a horror  of  inverts.  This  in  turn  resulted  in 
that  typically  equivocal  situation  in  which  the  new  members  could  not  con- 
fess their  identity  openly,  and  yet  could  not  hide  it  either.  Such  were  the 
conditions  from  which  arose  the  complicated  game  of  exposure  and  con- 
cealment, of  half-confessions  and  lying  distortions,  of  exaggerated  humility 
and  exaggerated  arrogance,  all  of  which  were  consequences  of  the  fact  that 
only  one’s  Jewishness  (or  homosexuality)  had  opened  the  doors  of  the 
exclusive  salons,  while  at  the  same  time  they  made  one’s  position  extremely 
insecure.  In  this  equivocal  situation,  Jewishness  was  for  the  individual  Jew 
at  once  a physical  stain  and  a mysterious  personal  privilege,  both  inherent 
in  a “racial  predestination.” 

Proust  describes  at  great  length  how  society,  constantly  on  the  lookout 
for  the  strange,  the  exotic,  the  dangerous,  finally  identifies  the  refined  with 
the  monstrous  and  gets  ready  to  admit  monstrosities — real  or  fancied — such 
as  the  strange,  unfamiliar  “Russian  or  Japanese  play  performed  by  native 
actors”; 06  the  “painted,  paunchy,  tightly  buttoned  personage  [of  the  invert], 
reminding  one  of  a box  of  exotic  and  dubious  origin  from  which  escapes  the 
curious  odor  of  fruits  the  mere  thought  of  tasting  which  stirs  the  heart”; 67 
the  “man  of  genius”  who  is  supposed  to  emanate  a “sense  of  the  super- 
natural” and  around  whom  society  will  “gather  as  though  around  a turning- 
table,  to  learn  the  secret  of  the  Infinite.” 68  In  the  atmosphere  of  this 
“necromancy,”  a Jewish  gentleman  or  a Turkish  lady  might  appear  “as  if 
they  really  were  creatures  evoked  by  the  effort  of  a medium.”  09 

Obviously  the  role  of  the  exotic,  the  strange,  and  the  monstrous  could 
not  be  played  by  those  individual  “exception  Jews”  who,  for  almost  a cen- 
tury, had  been  admitted  and  tolerated  as  “foreign  upstarts”  and  on  “whose 
friendship  nobody  would  ever  have  dreamed  of  priding  himself.”  70  Much 
better  suited  of  course  were  those  whom  nobody  had  ever  known,  who,  in 
the  first  stage  of  their  assimilation,  were  not  identified  with,  and  were  not 
representative  of,  the  Jewish  community,  for  such  identification  with  well- 

«« Ibid. 


08  The  Guermantes  Way,  Part  I,  chapter  i. 

69  Ibid. 

70  Ibid. 



known  bodies  would  have  limited  severely  society’s  imagination  and  ex- 
pectations. Those  who,  like  Swann,  had  an  unaccountable  flair  for  society 
and  taste  in  general  were  admitted;  but  more  enthusiastically  embraced  were 
those  who,  like  Bloch,  belonged  to  “a  family  of  little  repute,  [and]  had  to 
support,  as  on  the  floor  of  the  ocean,  the  incalculable  pressure  of  what  was 
imposed  on  him  not  only  by  the  Christians  upon  the  surface  but  by  all  the 
intervening  layers  of  Jewish  castes  superior  to  his  own,  each  of  them  crushing 
with  its  contempt  the  one  that  was  immediately  beneath  it.”  Society’s  will- 
ingness to  receive  the  utterly  alien  and,  as  it  thought,  utterly  vicious,  cut  short 
that  climb  of  several  generations  by  which  newcomers  had  “to  carve  their 
way  through  to  the  open  air  by  raising  themselves  from  Jewish  family  to 
Jewish  family.”  71  It  was  no  accident  that  this  happened  shortly  after  native 
French  Jewry,  during  the  Panama  scandal,  had  given  way  before  the  initia- 
tive and  unscrupulousness  of  some  German  Jewish  adventurers;  the  indi- 
vidual exceptions,  with  or  without  title,  who  more  than  ever  before  sought 
the  society  of  antisemitic  and  monarchist  salons  where  they  could  dream 
of  the  good  old  days  of  the  Second  Empire,  found  themselves  in  the  same 
category  as  Jews  whom  they  would  never  have  invited  to  their  houses.  If 
Jewishness  as  exceptionalness  was  the  reason  for  admitting  Jews,  then  those 
were  preferred  who  were  clearly  “a  solid  troop,  homogeneous  within  itself 
and  utterly  dissimilar  to  the  people  who  watched  them  go  past,”  those  who 
had  not  yet  “reached  the  same  stage  of  assimilation”  as  their  upstart 

Although  Benjamin  Disraeli  was  still  one  of  those  Jews  who  were  ad- 
mitted to  society  because  they  were  exceptions,  his  secularized  self-represen- 
tation as  a “chosen  man  of  the  chosen  race”  foreshadowed  and  outlined  the 
lines  along  which  Jewish  self-interpretation  was  to  take  place.  If  this,  fantastic 
and  crude  as  it  was,  had  not  been  so  oddly  similar  to  what  society  expected 
of  Jews,  Jews  would  never  have  been  able  to  play  their  dubious  role.  Not, 
of  course,  that  they  consciously  adopted  Disraeli’s  convictions  or  purposely 
elaborated  the  first  timid,  perverted  self-interpretation  of  their  Prussian 
predecessors  of  the  beginning  of  the  century;  most  of  them  were  blissfully 
ignorant  of  all  Jewish  history.  But  wherever  Jews  were  educated,  secularized, 
and  assimilated  under  the  ambiguous  conditions  of  society  and  state  in 
Western  and  Central  Europe,  they  lost  that  measure  of  political  responsi- 
bility which  their  origin  implied  and  which  the  Jewish  notables  had  still  felt, 
albeit  in  the  form  of  privilege  and  rulership.  Jewish  origin,  without  religious 
and  political  connotation,  became  everywhere  a psychological  quality,  was 
changed  into  “Jewishness,”  and  from  then  on  could  be  considered  only  in 
the  categories  of  virtue  or  vice.  If  it  is  true  that  “Jewishness”  could  not  have 
been  perverted  into  an  interesting  vice  without  a prejudice  which  considered 
it  a crime,  it  is  also  true  that  such  perversion  was  made  possible  by  those 
Jews  who  considered  it  an  innate  virtue. 


71  Within  a Budding  Grove,  Part  II,  "Placenames:  The  Place.” 

72  Ibid. 



Assimilated  Jewry  has  been  reproached  with  alienation  from  Judaism,  and 
the  final  catastrophe  brought  upon  it  is  frequently  thought  to  have  been  a 
suffering  as  senseless  as  it  was  horrible,  since  it  had  lost  the  old  value  of 
martyrdom.  This  argument  overlooks  the  fact  that  as  far  as  the  old  ways  of 
faith  and  life  are  concerned,  “alienation”  was  equally  apparent  in  Eastern 
European  countries.  But  the  usual  notion  of  the  Jews  of  Western  Europe 
as  “dejudaized”  is  misleading  for  another  reason.  Proust’s  picture,  in  con- 
trast to  the  all  too  obviously  interested  utterances  of  official  Judaism,  shows 
that  never  did  the  fact  of  Jewish  birth  play  such  a decisive  role  in  private 
life  and  everyday  existence  as  among  the  assimilated  Jews.  The  Jewish  re- 
former who  changed  a national  religion  into  a religious  denomination  with 
the  understanding  that  religion  is  a private  affair,  the  Jewish  revolutionary 
who  pretended  to  be  a world  citizen  in  order  to  rid  himself  of  Jewish  na- 
tionality, the  educated  Jew,  “a  man  in  the  street  and  a Jew  at  home” — each 
one  of  these  succeeded  in  converting  a national  quality  into  a private  affair. 
The  result  was  that  their  private  lives,  their  decisions  and  sentiments,  be- 
came the  very  center  of  their  “Jewishness.”  And  the  more  the  fact  of  Jewish 
birth  lost  its  religious,  national,  and  social-economic  significance,  the  more 
obsessive  Jewishness  became;  Jews  were  obsessed  by  it  as  one  may  be  by  a 
physical  defect  or  advantage,  and  addicted  to  it  as  one  may  be  to  a vice. 

Proust’s  “innate  disposition”  is  nothing  but  this  personal,  private  obses- 
sion, which  was  so  greatly  justified  by  a society  where  success  and  failure 
depended  upon  the  fact  of  Jewish  birth.  Proust  mistook  it  for  “racial  pre- 
destination,” because  he  saw  and  depicted  only  its  social  aspect  and  indi- 
vidual reconsiderations.  And  it  is  true  that  to  the  recording  onlooker  the 
behavior  of  the  Jewish  clique  showed  the  same  obsession  as  the  behavior 
patterns  followed  by  inverts.  Both  felt  either  superior  or  inferior,  but  in  any 
case  proudly  different  from  other  normal  beings;  both  believed  their  dif- 
ference to  be  a natural  fact  acquired  by  birth;  both  were  constantly  justifying, 
not  what  they  did,  but  what  they  were;  and  both,  finally,  always  wavered 
between  such  apologetic  attitudes  and  sudden,  provocative  claims  that  they 
were  an  elite.  As  though  their  social  position  were  forever  frozen  by  nature, 
neither  could  move  from  one  clique  into  another.  The  need  to  belong  existed 
in  other  members  of  society  too — “the  question  is  not  as  for  Hamlet,  to  be 
or  not  to  be,  but  to  belong  or  not  to  belong”73 — but  not  to  the  same  extent. 
A society  disintegrating  into  cliques  and  no  longer  tolerating  outsiders, 
Jews  or  inverts,  as  individuals  but  because  of  the  special  circumstances  of 
their  admission,  looked  like  the  embodiment  of  this  clannishness. 

Each  society  demands  of  its  members  a certain  amount  of  acting,  the 
ability  to  present,  represent,  and  act  what  one  actually  is.  When  society  dis- 
integrates into  cliques  such  demands  are  no  longer  made  of  the  individual 
but  of  members  of  cliques.  Behavior  then  is  controlled  by  silent  demands 
and  not  by  individual  capacities,  exactly  as  an  actor’s  performance  must  fit 

73  Cities  of  the  Plain.  Part  II,  chapter  iii. 



into  the  ensemble  of  all  other  roles  in  the  play.  The  salons  of  the  Faubourg 
Saint-Germain  consisted  of  such  an  ensemble  of  cliques,  each  of  which  pre- 
sented an  extreme  behavior  pattern.  The  role  of  the  inverts  was  to  show 
their  abnormality,  of  the  Jews  to  represent  black  magic  (“necromancy”), 
of  the  artists  to  manifest  another  form  of  supranatural  and  superhuman  con- 
tact, of  the  aristocrats  to  show  that  they  were  not  like  ordinary  (“bourgeois”) 
people.  Despite  their  clannishness,  it  is  true,  as  Proust  observed,  that  “save 
on  the  days  of  general  disaster  when  the  majority  rally  round  the  victim  as 
the  Jews  rallied  round  Dreyfus,”  all  these  newcomers  shunned  intercourse 
with  their  own  kind.  The  reason  was  that  all  marks  of  distinction  were  de- 
termined only  by  the  ensemble  of  the  cliques,  so  that  Jews  or  inverts  felt 
that  they  would  lose  their  distinctive  character  in  a society  of  Jews  or  inverts, 
where  Jewishness  or  homosexuality  would  be  the  most  natural,  the  most 
uninteresting,  and  the  most  banal  thing  in  the  world.  The  same,  however, 
held  true  of  their  hosts  who  also  needed  an  ensemble  of  counterparts  before 
whom  they  could  be  different,  nonaristocrats  who  would  admire  aristocrats 
as  these  admired  the  Jews  or  the  homosexuals. 

Although  these  cliques  had  no  consistency  in  themselves  and  dissolved  as 
soon  as  no  members  of  other  cliques  were  around,  their  members  used  a 
mysterious  sign-language  as  though  they  needed  something  strange  by  which 
to  recognize  each  other.  Proust  reports  at  length  the  importance  of  such 
signs,  especially  for  newcomers.  While,  however,  the  inverts,  masters  at  sign- 
language,  had  at  least  a real  secret,  the  Jews  used  this  language  only  to 
create  the  expected  atmosphere  of  mystery.  Their  signs  mysteriously  and 
ridiculously  indicated  something  universally  known:  that  in  the  corner  of 
the  salon  of  the  Princess  So-and-So  sat  another  Jew  who  was  not  allowed 
openly  to  admit  his  identity  but  who  without  this  meaningless  quality  would 
never  have  been  able  to  climb  into  that  corner. 

It  is  noteworthy  that  the  new  mixed  society  at  the  end  of  the  nineteenth 
century,  like  the  first  Jewish  salons  in  Berlin,  again  centered  around  nobility. 
Aristocracy  by  now  had  all  but  lost  its  eagerness  for  culture  and  its  curiosity 
about  “new  specimens  of  humanity,”  but  it  retained  its  old  scorn  of  bourgeois 
society.  An  urge  for  social  distinction  was  its  answer  to  political  equality  and 
the  loss  of  political  position  and  privilege  which  had  been  affirmed  with  the 
establishment  of  the  Third  Republic.  After  a short  and  artificial  rise  during 
the  Second  Empire,  French  aristocracy  maintained  itself  only  by  social  clan- 
nishness and  half-hearted  attempts  to  reserve  the  higher  positions  in  the 
army  for  its  sons.  Much  stronger  than  political  ambition  was  an  aggressive 
contempt  for  middle-class  standards,  which  undoubtedly  was  one  of  the 
strongest  motives  for  the  admission  of  individuals  and  whole  groups  of 
people  who  had  belonged  to  socially  unacceptable  classes.  The  same  motive 
that  had  enabled  Prussian  aristocrats  to  meet  socially  with  actors  and  Jews 
finally  led  in  France  to  the  social  prestige  of  inverts.  The  middle  classes,  on 
the  other  hand,  had  not  acquired  social  self-respect,  although  they  had  in 
the  meantime  risen  to  wealth  and  power.  The  absence  of  a political  hierarchy 


in  the  nation-state  and  the  victory  of  equality  rendered  “society  secretly 
more  hierarchical  as  it  became  outwardly  more  democratic.” 74  Since  the 
principle  of  hierarchy  was  embodied  in  the  exclusive  social  circles  of  the 
Faubourg  Saint-Germain,  each  society  in  France  “reproduced  the  character- 
istics more  or  less  modified,  more  or  less  in  caricature  of  the  society  of  the 
Faubourg  Saint-Germain  which  it  sometimes  pretended  ...  to  hold  in 
contempt,  no  matter  what  status  or  what  political  ideas  its  members  might 
hold."  Aristocratic  society  was  a thing  of  the  past  in  appearance  only; 
actually  it  pervaded  the  whole  social  body  (and  not  only  of  the  people  of 
France)  by  imposing  “the  key  and  the  grammar  of  fashionable  social  life."  75 
When  Proust  felt  the  need  for  an  apologia  pro  vita  sua  and  reconsidered  his 
own  life  spent  in  aristocratic  circles,  he  gave  an  analysis  of  society  as  such. 

The  main  point  about  the  role  of  Jews  in  this  fin-de-siecle  society  is  that 
it  was  the  antisemitism  of  the  Dreyfus  Affair  which  opened  society’s  doors 
to  Jews,  and  that  it  was  the  end  of  the  Affair,  or  rather  the  discovery  of 
Dreyfus’  innocence,  that  put  an  end  to  their  social  glory.76  In  other  words, 
no  matter  what  the  Jews  thought  of  themselves  or  of  Dreyfus,  they  could 
play  the  role  society  had  assigned  them  only  as  long  as  this  same  society  was 
convinced  that  they  belonged  to  a race  of  traitors.  When  the  traitor  was  dis- 
covered to  be  the  rather  stupid  victim  of  an  ordinary  frame-up,  and  the  inno- 
cence of  the  Jews  was  established,  social  interest  in  Jews  subsided  as  quickly 
as  did  political  antisemitism.  Jews  were  again  looked  upon  as  ordinary 
mortals  and  fell  into  the  insignificance  from  which  the  supposed  crime  of 
one  of  their  own  had  raised  them  temporarily. 

It  was  essentially  the  same  kind  of  social  glory  that  the  Jews  of  Germany 
and  Austria  enjoyed  under  much  more  severe  circumstances  immediately 
after  the  first  World  War.  Their  supposed  crime  then  was  that  they  had  been 
guilty  of  the  war,  a crime  which,  no  longer  identified  with  a single  act  of  a 
single  individual,  could  not  be  refuted,  so  that  the  mob’s  evaluation  of  Jew- 
ishness as  a crime  remained  undisturbed  and  society  could  continue  to  be 
delighted  and  fascinated  by  its  Jews  up  to  the  very  end.  If  there  is  any  psy- 
chological truth  in  the  scapegoat  theory,  it  is  as  the  effect  of  this  social  atti- 
tude toward  Jews;  for  when  antiscmitic  legislation  forced  society  to  oust  the 
Jews,  these  “philoscmites"  felt  as  though  they  had  to  purge  themselves  of 
secret  viciousness,  to  cleanse  themselves  of  a stigma  which  they  had  mys- 
teriously and  wickedly  loved.  This  psychology,  to  be  sure,  hardly  explains 
why  these  “admirers”  of  Jews  finally  became  their  murderers,  and  it  may 

74  The  Guermantes  Way,  Part  II,  chapter  ii. 

75  Ramon  Fernandez,  “La  vie  sociale  dans  Focuvre  de  Marcel  Proust,”  in  Les  Cahiers 
Marcel  Proust,  No.  2,  1927. 

<0“Bul  this  was  the  moment  when  from  the  effects  of  the  Dreyfus  case  there  had 
arisen  an  antisemilic  movement  parallel  to  a more  abundant  movement  towards  the 
penetration  of  society  by  Israelites.  The  politicians  had  not  been  wrong  in  thinking 
that  the  discovery  of  the  judicial  error  would  deal  a fatal  blow  to  antisemitism.  But 
provisionally  at  least  a social  antisemitism  was  on  the  contrary  enhanced  and 
exacerbated  by  it.”  See  The  Sweet  Cheat  Gone,  chapter  ii. 



even  be  doubted  that  they  were  prominent  among  those  who  ran  the  death 
factories,  although  the  percentage  of  the  so-called  educated  classes  among 
the  actual  killers  is  amazing.  But  it  does  explain  the  incredible  disloyalty  of 
precisely  those  strata  of  society  which  had  known  Jews  most  intimately  and 
had  been  most  delighted  and  charmed  by  Jewish  friends. 

As  far  as  the  Jews  were  concerned,  the  transformation  of  the  “crime”  of 
Judaism  into  the  fashionable  “vice”  of  Jewishness  was  dangerous  in  the 
extreme.  Jews  had  been  able  to  escape  from  Judaism  into  conversion;  from 
Jewishness  there  was  no  escape.  A crime,  moreover,  is  met  with  punishment; 
a vice  can  only  be  exterminated.  The  interpretation  given  by  society  to  the 
fact  of  Jewish  birth  and  the  role  played  by  Jews  in  the  framework  of  social 
life  are  intimately  connected  with  the  catastrophic  thoroughness  with  which 
antisemitic  devices  could  be  put  to  work.  The  Nazi  brand  of  antisemitism 
had  its  roots  in  these  social  conditions  as  well  as  in  political  circumstances. 
And  though  the  concept  of  race  had  other  and  more  immediately  political 
purposes  and  functions,  its  application  to  the  Jewish  question  in  its  most 
sinister  aspect  owed  much  of  its  success  to  social  phenomena  and  convictions 
which  virtually  constituted  a consent  by  public  opinion. 

The  deciding  forces  in  the  Jews’  fateful  journey  to  the  storm  center  of 
events  were  without  doubt  political;  but  the  reactions  of  society  to  anti- 
semitism and  the  psychological  reflections  of  the  Jewish  question  in  the 
individual  had  something  to  do  with  the  specific  cruelty,  the  organized  and 
calculated  assault  upon  every  single  individual  of  Jewish  origin,  that  was 
already  characteristic  of  the  antisemitism  of  the  Dreyfus  Affair.  This  pas- 
sion-driven hunt  of  the  “Jew  in  general,”  the  “Jew  everywhere  and  nowhere,” 
cannot  be  understood  if  one  considers  the  history  of  antisemitism  as  an 
entity  in  itself,  as  a mere  political  movement.  Social  factors,  unaccounted 
for  in  political  or  economic  history,  hidden  under  the  surface  of  events,  never 
perceived  by  the  historian  and  recorded  only  by  the  more  penetrating  and 
passionate  force  of  poets  or  novelists  (men  whom  society  had  driven  into 
the  desperate  solitude  and  loneliness  of  the  apologia  pro  vita  sua)  changed 
the  course  that  mere  political  antisemitism  would  have  taken  if  left  to 
itself,  and  which  might  have  resulted  in  anti-Jewish  legislation  and  even 
mass  expulsion  but  hardly  in  wholesale  extermination. 

Ever  since  the  Dreyfus  Affair  and  its  political  threat  to  the  rights  of 
French  Jewry  had  produced  a social  situation  in  which  Jews  enjoyed  an 
ambiguous  glory,  antisemitism  appeared  in  Europe  as  an  insoluble  mixture 
of  political  motives  and  social  elements.  Society  always  reacted  first  to  a 
strong  antisemitic  movement  with  marked  preference  for  Jews,  so  that 
Disraeli’s  remark  that  “there  is  no  race  at  this  present  . . . that  so  much 
delights  and  fascinates  and  elevates  and  ennobles  Europe  as  the  Jewish,” 
became  particularly  true  in  times  of  danger.  Social  “philosemitism”  always 
ended  by  adding  to  political  antisemitism  that  mysterious  fanaticism  with- 
out which  antisemitism  could  hardly  have  become  the  best  slogan  for  or- 
ganizing the  masses.  All  the  declasses  of  capitalist  society  were  finally  ready 



to  unite  and  establish  mob  organizations  of  their  own;  their  propaganda  and 
their  attraction  rested  on  the  assumption  that  a society  which  had  shown  its 
willingness  to  incorporate  crime  in  the  form  of  vice  into  its  very  structure 
would  by  now  be  ready  to  cleanse  itself  of  viciousness  by  openly  admitting 
criminals  and  by  publicly  committing  crimes. 


The  Dreyfus  Affair 

i:  The  Facts  of  the  Case 

It  happened  in  France  at  the  end  of  the  year  1894.  Alfred  Dreyfus,  a 
Jewish  officer  of  the  French  General  Staff,  was  accused  and  convicted 
of  espionage  for  Germany.  The  verdict,  lifelong  deportation  to  Devil’s 
Island,  was  unanimously  adopted.  The  trial  took  place  behind  closed  doors. 
Out  of  an  allegedly  voluminous  dossier  of  the  prosecution,  only  the  so-called 
“ bordereau' * was  shown.  This  was  a letter,  supposedly  in  Dreyfus’  hand- 
writing, addressed  to  the  German  military  attache,  Schwartzkoppen.  In  July, 
1895,  Colonel  Picquard  became  head  of  the  Information  Division  of  the 
General  Staff.  In  May,  1896,  he  told  the  chief  of  the  General  Staff,  Boisdeffre, 
that  he  had  convinced  himself  of  Dreyfus’  innocence  and  of  the  guilt  of  an- 
other officer,  Major  Walsin-Esterhazy.  Six  months  later,  Picquard  was  re- 
moved to  a dangerous  post  in  Tunisia.  At  the  same  time,  Bernard  Lazare,  on 
behalf  of  Dreyfus’  brothers,  published  the  first  pamphlet  of  the  Affair:  Une 
erreur  judiciaire ; la  verite  sur  V affaire  Dreyjus.  In  June,  1897,  Picquard  in- 
formed Scheurer-Kesten,  Vice-President  of  the  Senate,  of  the  facts  of  the 
trials  and  of  Dreyfus’  innocence.  In  November,  1897,  Clemenceau  started 
his  fight  for  re-examination  of  the  case.  Four  weeks  later  Zola  joined  the 
ranks  of  the  Dreyfusards.  F Accuse  was  published  by  Clemenceau’s  news- 
paper in  January,  1898.  At  the  same  time,  Picquard  was  arrested.  Zola,  tried 
for  calumny  of  the  army,  was  convicted  by  both  the  ordinary  tribunal  and 
the  Court  of  Appeal.  In  August,  1 898,  Esterhazy  was  dishonorably  dis- 
charged because  of  embezzlement.  He  at  once  hurried  to  a British  journalist 
and  told  him  that  he — and  not  Dreyfus — was  the  author  of  the  “bordereau,” 
which  he  had  forged  in  Dreyfus’  handwriting  on  orders  from  Colonel  Sand- 
herr,  his  superior  and  former  chief  of  the  counterespionage  division.  A few 
days  later  Colonel  Henry,  another  member  of  the  same  department,  con- 
fessed forgeries  of  several  other  pieces  of  the  secret  Dreyfus  dossier  and  com- 
mitted suicide.  Thereupon  the  Court  of  Appeal  ordered  an  investigation  of 
the  Dreyfus  case. 

In  June,  1899,  the  Court  of  Appeal  annulled  the  original  sentence  against 
Dreyfus  of  1894.  The  revision  trial  took  place  in  Rennes  in  August.  The 
sentence  was  made  ten  years’  imprisonment  because  of  “alleviating  circum- 
stances.” A week  later  Dreyfus  was  pardoned  by  the  President  of  the  Repub- 
lic. The  World  Exposition  opened  in  Paris  in  April,  1900.  In  May,  when  the 
success  of  the  Exposition  was  guaranteed,  the  Chamber  of  Deputies,  with 



overwhelming  majority,  voted  against  any  further  revision  of  the  Dreyfus 
case.  In  December  of  the  same  year  all  trials  and  lawsuits  connected  with  the 
affair  were  liquidated  through  a general  amnesty. 

In  1903  Dreyfus  asked  for  a new  revision.  His  petition  was  neglected 
until  1906,  when  Clemenceau  had  become  Prime  Minister.  In  July,  1906, 
the  Court  of  Appeal  annulled  the  sentence  of  Rennes  and  acquitted  Dreyfus 
of  all  charges.  The  Court  of  Appeal,  however,  had  no  authority  to  acquit; 
it  should  have  ordered  a new  trial.  Another  revision  before  a military 
tribunal  would,  in  all  probability  and  despite  the  overwhelming  evidence  in 
favor  of  Dreyfus,  have  led  to  a new  conviction.  Dreyfus,  therefore,  was  never 
acquitted  in  accordance  with  the  law,1  and  the  Dreyfus  case  was  never  really 
settled.  The  reinstatement  of  the  accused  was  never  recognized  by  the  French 
people,  and  the  passions  that  were  originally  aroused  never  entirely  subsided. 
As  late  as  1908,  nine  years  after  the  pardon  and  two  years  after  Dreyfus 
was  cleared,  when,  at  Clemenceau’s  instance,  the  body  of  Emile  Zola  was 
transferred  to  the  Pantheon,  Alfred  Dreyfus  was  openly  attacked  in  the 
street.  A Paris  court  acquitted  his  assailant  and  indicated  that  it  “dissented” 
from  the  decision  which  had  cleared  Dreyfus. 

Even  stranger  is  the  fact  that  neither  the  first  nor  the  second  World  War 
has  been  able  to  bury  the  affair  in  oblivion.  At  the  behest  of  the  Action 
Frangaise,  the  Precis  de  l Affaire  Dreyjus  2 was  republished  in  1924  and  has 
since  been  the  standard  reference  manual  of  the  Anti-Dreyfusards.  At  the 
premiere  of  L’ Affaire  Dreyfus  (a  play  written  by  Rehfisch  and  Wilhelm 
Herzog  under  the  pseudonym  of  Rene  Kestner)  in  1931,  the  atmosphere  of 
the  nineties  still  prevailed  with  quarrels  in  the  auditorium,  stink-bombs  in  the 
stalls,  the  shock  troops  of  the  Action  Frangaise  standing  around  to  strike 
terror  into  actors,  audience  and  bystanders.  Nor  did  the  government — 
Laval’s  government — act  in  any  way  differently  than  its  predecessors  some 
thirty  years  before:  it  gladly  admitted  it  was  unable  to  guarantee  a single 
undisturbed  performance,  thereby  providing  a new  late  triumph  for  the  Anti- 
Dreyfusards.  The  play  had  to  be  suspended.  When  Dreyfus  died  in  1935, 
the  general  press  was  afraid  to  touch  the  issue  3 while  the  leftist  papers 
still  spoke  in  the  old  terms  of  Dreyfus’  innocence  and  the  right  wing  of 
Dreyfus’  guilt.  Even  today,  though  to  a lesser  extent,  the  Dreyfus  Affair  is 
still  a kind  of  shibboleth  in  French  politics.  When  Petain  was  condemned 
the  influential  provincial  newspaper  Voix  du  Nord  (of  Lille)  linked  the 

1 The  most  extensive  and  still  indispensable  work  on  the  subject  is  that  of  Joseph 
Reinach,  L' Affaire  Dreyfus,  Paris,  1903-11,  7 vols.  The  most  detailed  among  recent 
studies,  wriitcn  from  a socialist  viewpoint,  is  by  Wilhelm  Herzog,  Der  Kampf  einer 
Rcpublik,  Zurich,  1933.  Its  exhaustive  chronological  tables  are  very  valuable.  The 
best  political  and  historical  evaluation  of  the  affair  is  to  be  found  in  D.  W.  Brogan, 
The  Development  of  Modern  France,  1940,  Books  VI  and  VII.  Brief  and  reliable  is 
G.  Charensol,  L’Affaire  Dreyfus  el  la  Troisieme  Republique , 1930. 

2 Wriitcn  by  two  officers  and  published  under  the  pseudonym  Henri  Dutrait-Crozon. 

3Thc  Action  Frangaise  (July  19,  1935)  praised  the  restraint  of  the  French  press 

while  voicing  the  opinion  that  “the  famous  champions  of  justice  and  truth  of  forty 
years  ago  have  left  no  disciples.” 



Petain  case  to  the  Dreyfus  case  and  maintained  that  “the  country  remains 
divided  as  it  was  after  the  Dreyfus  case,”  because  the  verdict  of  the  court 
could  not  settle  a political  conflict  and  “bring  to  all  the  French  peace  of 
mind  or  of  heart.”  4 

While  the  Dreyfus  Affair  in  its  broader  political  aspects  belongs  to  the 
twentieth  century,  the  Dreyfus  case,  the  various  trials  of  the  Jewish  Captain 
Alfred  Dreyfus,  are  quite  typical  of  the  nineteenth  century,  when  men  fol- 
lowed legal  proceedings  so  keenly  because  each  instance  afforded  a test  of 
the  century’s  greatest  achievement,  the  complete  impartiality  of  the  law. 
It  is  characteristic  of  the  period  that  a miscarriage  of  justice  could  arouse 
such  political  passions  and  inspire  such  an  endless  succession  of  trials  and 
retrials,  not  to  speak  of  duels  and  fisticuffs.  The  doctrine  of  equality  before 
the  law  was  still  so  firmly  implanted  in  the  conscience  of  the  civilized  world 
that  a single  miscarriage  of  justice  could  provoke  public  indignation  from 
Moscow  to  New  York.  Nor  was  anyone,  except  in  France  itself,  so  “modern” 
as  to  associate  the  matter  with  political  issues.5  The  wrong  done  to  a single 
Jewish  officer  in  France  was  able  to  draw  from  the  rest  of  the  world  a more 
vehement  and  united  reaction  than  all  the  persecutions  of  German  Jews  a 
generation  later.  Even  Czarist  Russia  could  accuse  France  of  barbarism 
while  in  Germany  members  of  the  Kaiser’s  entourage  would  openly  express 
an  indignation  matched  only  by  the  radical  press  of  the  1930’s.6 

The  dramatis  personae  of  the  case  might  have  stepped  out  of  the  pages 
of  Balzac:  on  the  one  hand,  the  class-conscious  generals  frantically  covering 
up  for  the  members  of  their  own  clique  and,  on  the  other,  their  antagonist, 
Picquard,  with  his  calm,  clear-eyed  and  slightly  ironical  honesty.  Beside 
them  stand  the  nondescript  crowd  of  the  men  in  Parliament,  each  terrified 
of  what  his  neighbor  might  know;  the  President  of  the  Republic,  notorious 
patron  of  the  Paris  brothels,  and  the  examining  magistrates,  living  solely 
for  the  sake  of  social  contacts.  Then  there  is  Dreyfus  himself,  actually  a 
parvenu,  continually  boasting  to  his  colleagues  of  his  family  fortune  which 
he  spent  on  women;  his  brothers,  pathetically  offering  their  entire  fortune, 
and  then  reducing  the  offer  to  150,000  francs,  for  the  release  of  their  kins- 
man, never  quite  sure  whether  they  wished  to  make  a sacrifice  or  simply  to 
suborn  the  General  Staff;  and  the  lawyer  Demange,  really  convinced  of  his 

4 See  G.  H.  Archambault  in  New  York  Times,  August  18,  1945,  p.  5. 

5 The  sole  exceptions,  the  Catholic  journals  most  of  which  agitated  in  all  countries 
against  Dreyfus,  will  be  discussed  below.  American  public  opinion  was  such  that  in 
addition  to  protests  an  organized  boycott  of  the  Paris  World  Exposition  scheduled  for 
1900  was  begun.  On  the  effect  of  this  threat  see  below.  For  a comprehensive  study 
see  the  master’s  essay  on  file  at  Columbia  University  by  Rose  A.  Halperin,  “The 
American  Reaction  to  the  Dreyfus  Case,”  1941.  The  author  wishes  to  thank  Professor 
S.  W.  Baron  for  his  kindness  in  placing  this  study  at  her  disposal. 

6 Thus,  for  example,  H.  B.  von  Buelow,  the  German  charge  d’affaires  at  Paris,  wrote 
to  Reichchancellor  Hohenlohe  that  the  verdict  at  Rennes  was  a “mixture  of  vulgarity 
and  cowardice,  the  surest  signs  of  barbarism,”  and  that  France  “has  therewith  shut 
herself  out  of  the  family  of  civilized  nations,”  cited  by  Herzog,  op.  cit.,  under  date  of 
September  12,  1899.  In  the  opinion  of  von  Buelow  the  Affaire  was  the  “shibboleth”  of 
German  liberalism;  see  his  Denkwiirdigkeiten,  Berlin,  1930-31,  I,  428. 



client’s  innocence  but  basing  the  defense  on  an  issue  of  doubt  so  as  to  save 
himself  from  attacks  and  injury  to  his  personal  interests.  Lastly,  there  is  the 
adventurer  Esterhazy,  he  of  the  ancient  escutcheon,  so  utterly  bored  by  this 
bourgeois  world  as  to  seek  relief  equally  in  heroism  and  knavery.  An  erst- 
while second  lieutenant  of  the  Foreign  Legion,  he  impressed  his  colleagues 
greatly  by  his  superior  boldness  and  impudence.  Always  in  trouble,  he  lived 
by  serving  as  duelist’s  second  to  Jewish  officers  and  by  blackmailing  their 
wealthy  coreligionists.  Indeed,  he  would  avail  himself  of  the  good  offices  of 
the  chief  rabbi  himself  in  order  to  obtain  the  requisite  introductions.  Even  in 
his  ultimate  downfall  he  remained  true  to  the  Balzac  tradition.  Not  treason 
nor  wild  dreams  of  a great  orgy  in  which  a hundred  thousand  besotted 
Prussian  Uhlans  would  run  berserk  through  Paris  7 but  a paltry  embezzle- 
ment of  a relative’s  cash  sent  him  to  his  doom.  And  what  shall  we  say  of 
Zola,  with  his  impassioned  moral  fervor,  his  somewhat  empty  pathos,  and 
his  melodramatic  declaration,  on  the  eve  of  his  flight  to  London,  that  he 
had  heard  the  voice  of  Dreyfus  begging  him  to  bring  this  sacrifice?  8 

All  this  belongs  typically  to  the  nineteenth  century  and  by  itself  would 
never  have  survived  two  World  Wars.  The  old-time  enthusiasm  of  the  mob 
for  Esterhazy,  like  its  hatred  of  Zola,  have  long  since  died  down  to  embers, 
but  so  too  has  that  fiery  passion  against  aristocracy  and  clergy  which  had 
once  inflamed  Jaures  and  which  had  alone  secured  the  final  release  of  Drey- 
fus. As  the  Cagoulard  affair  was  to  show,  officers  of  the  General  Staff  no 
longer  had  to  fear  the  wrath  of  the  people  when  they  hatched  their  plots  for 
a coup  d'etat.  Since  the  separation  of  Church  and  State,  France,  though  cer- 
tainly no  longer  clerical-minded,  had  lost  a great  deal  of  her  anticlerical 
feeling,  just  as  the  Catholic  Church  had  itself  lost  much  of  its  political  aspira- 
tion. Petain’s  attempt  to  convert  the  republic  into  a Catholic  state  was 
blocked  by  the  utter  indifference  of  the  people  and  by  the  lower  clergy’s 
hostility  to  clerico-fascism. 

The  Dreyfus  Affair  in  its  political  implications  could  survive  because  two 
of  its  elements  grew  in  importance  during  the  twentieth  century.  The  first  is 
hatred  of  the  Jews;  the  second,  suspicion  of  the  republic  itself,  of  Parliament, 
and  the  state  machine.  The  larger  section  of  the  public  could  still  go  on  think- 
ing the  latter,  rightly  or  wrongly,  under  the  influence  of  the  Jews  and  the 
power  of  the  banks.  Down  to  our  times  the  term  Anti-Dreyfusard  can  still 
serve  as  a recognized  name  for  all  that  is  antirepublican,  antidemocratic,  and 
antisemitic.  A few  years  ago  it  still  comprised  everything,  from  the  monarch- 
ism of  the  Action  Frangaise  to  the  National  Bolshevism  of  Doriot  and  the 
social  Fascism  of  Dcat.  It  was  not,  however,  to  these  Fascist  groups,  numer- 
ically unimportant  as  they  were,  that  the  Third  Republic  owed  its  collapse. 
On  the  contrary,  the  plain,  if  paradoxical,  truth  is  that  their  influence  was 
never  so  slight  as  at  the  moment  when  the  collapse  actually  took  place. 

7 Theodore  Reinach,  Histoire  sommaire  de  V Affaire  Dreyfus,  Paris,  1924,  p.  96. 

8 Reported  by  Joseph  Reinach,  as  cited  by  Herzog,  op.  cU.,  under  date  of  June  18, 



What  made  France  fall  was  the  fact  that  she  had  no  more  true  Dreyfusards, 
no  one  who  believed  that  democracy  and  freedom,  equality  and  justice  could 
any  longer  be  defended  or  realized  under  the  republic.9  At  long  last  the 
republic  fell  like  overripe  fruit  into  the  lap  of  that  old  Anti-Dreyfusard 
clique  10  which  had  always  formed  the  kernel  of  her  army,  and  this  at  a 
time  when  she  had  few  enemies  but  almost  no  friends.  How  little  the  Petain 
clique  was  a product  of  German  Fascism  was  shown  clearly  by  its  slavish 
adherence  to  the  old  formulas  of  forty  years  before. 

While  Germany  shrewdly  truncated  her  and  ruined  her  entire  economy 
through  the  demarcation  line,  France’s  leaders  in  Vichy  tinkered  with  the 
old  Barres  formula  of  “autonomous  provinces,”  thereby  crippling  her  all 
the  more.  They  introduced  anti-Jewish  legislation  more  promptly  than  any 
Quisling,  boasting  all  the  while  that  they  had  no  need  to  import  antisemitism 
from  Germany  and  that  their  law  governing  the  Jews  differed  in  essential 
points  from  that  of  the  Reich.11  They  sought  to  mobilize  the  Catholic  clergy 
against  the  Jews,  only  to  give  proof  that  the  priests  have  not  only  lost  their 
political  influence  but  are  not  actually  antisemites.  On  the  contrary,  it  was 
the  very  bishops  and  synods  which  the  Vichy  regime  wanted  to  turn  once 
more  into  political  powers  who  voiced  the  most  emphastic  protest  against 
the  persecution  of  the  Jews. 

Not  the  Dreyfus  case  with  its  trials  but  the  Dreyfus  Affair  in  its  entirety 
offers  a foregleam  of  the  twentieth  century.  As  Bernanos  pointed  out  in 
1931, 12  “The  Dreyfus  affair  already  belongs  to  that  tragic  era  which  cer- 
tainly was  not  ended  by  the  last  war.  The  affair  reveals  the  same  inhuman 
character,  preserving  amid  the  welter  of  unbridled  passions  and  the  flames 
of  hate  an  inconceivably  cold  and  callous  heart.”  Certainly  it  was  not  in 
France  that  the  true  sequel  to  the  affair  was  to  be  found,  but  the  reason  why 
France  fell  an  easy  prey  to  Nazi  aggression  is  not  far  to  seek.  Hitler’s  propa- 

9 That  even  Clemenceau  no  longer  believed  in  it  toward  the  end  of  his  life  is  shown 
clearly  by  the  remark  quoted  in  Rene  Benjamin,  Clemenceau  dans  la  retraite,  Paris, 
1930,  p.  249:  “Hope?  Impossible!  How  can  I go  on  hoping  when  I no  longer  believe 
in  that  which  roused  me,  namely,  democracy?” 

10  Weygand,  a known  adherent  of  the  Action  Fran^aise,  was  in  his  youth  an  Anti- 
Dreyfusard.  He  was  one  of  the  subscribers  to  the  “Henry  Memorial”  established  by 
the  Libre  Parole  in  honor  of  the  unfortunate  Colonel  Henry,  who  paid  with  suicide 
for  his  forgeries  while  on  the  General  Staff.  The  list  of  subscribers  was  later  published 
by  Quillard,  one  of  the  editors  of  L’Aurore  (Clemenceau’s  paper),  under  the  title  of 
Le  Monument  Henry , Paris,  1899.  As  for  Petain,  he  was  on  the  general  staff  of  the 
military  government  of  Paris  from  1895  to  1899,  at  a time  when  nobody  but  a proven 
anti-Dreyfusard  would  have  been  tolerated.  See  Contamine  de  Latour,  “Le  Marechal 
Petain,”  in  Revue  de  Paris,  I,  57-69.  D.  W.  Brogan,  op.  cit.,  p.  382,  pertinently  ob- 
serves that  of  the  five  World  War  I marshals,  four  (Foch,  Petain,  Lyautey,  and  Fa- 
yolle)  were  bad  republicans,  while  the  fifth,  Joffre,  had  well-known  clerical  leanings. 

11  The  myth  that  Petain’s  anti-Jewish  legislation  was  forced  upon  him  by  the  Reich, 
which  took  in  almost  the  whole  of  French  Jewry,  has  been  exploded  on  the  French 
side  itself.  See  especially  Yves  Simon,  La  Grande  crise  de  la  Republique  Frangaise: 
observations  sur  la  vie  politique  des  frangais  de  1918  a 1938,  Montreal,  1941. 

12  Cf.  Georges  Bernanos,  La  grande  peur  des  bien-pensants,  Edouard  Drumont, 
Paris,  1931,  p.  262. 



gnnda  spoke  a language  long  familiar  and  never  quite  forgotten.  That  the 
“Cuesarism”  IS  of  the  Action  Fran^aise  and  the  nihilistic  nationalism  of 
Bar  res  and  Maurras  never  succeeded  in  their  original  form  is  due  to  a variety 
of  causes,  all  of  them  negative.  They  lacked  social  vision  and  were  unable 
to  translate  into  popular  terms  those  mental  phantasmagoria  which  their  con- 
tempt for  the  intellect  had  engendered. 

We  arc  here  concerned  essentially  with  the  political  bearings  of  the  Drey- 
fus Adair  and  not  with  the  legal  aspects  of  the  case.  Sharply  outlined  in  it 
are  a number  of  traits  characteristic  of  the  twentieth  century.  Faint  and 
barely  distinguishable  during  the  early  decades  of  the  century,  they  have  at 
last  emerged  into  full  daylight  and  stand  revealed  as  belonging  to  the  main 
trends  of  modern  times.  After  thirty  years  of  a mild,  purely  social  form  of 
anti-Jcwish  discrimination,  it  had  become  a little  difficult  to  remember  that 
the  cry,  “Death  to  the  Jews,”  had  echoed  through  the  length  and  breadth  of 
a modern  state  once  before  when  its  domestic  policy  was  crystallized  in  the 
issue  of  antisemitism.  For  thirty  years  the  old  legends  of  world  conspiracy 
had  been  no  more  than  the  conventional  stand-by  of  the  tabloid  press  and  the 
dime  novel  and  the  world  did  not  easily  remember  that  not  long  ago,  but 
at  a time  when  the  “Protocols  of  the  Elders  of  Zion”  were  still  unknown,  a 
whole  nation  had  been  racking  its  brains  trying  to  determine  whether 
“secret  Rome”  or  “secret  Judah”  held  the  reins  of  world  politics.14 

Similarly,  the  vehement  and  nihilistic  philosophy  of  spiritual  self-hatred  15 
suffered  something  of  an  eclipse  when  a world  at  temporary  peace  with 
itself  yielded  no  crop  of  outstanding  criminals  to  justify  the  exaltation  of 
brutality  and  unscrupulousness.  The  Jules  Guerins  had  to  wait  nearly  forty 
years  before  the  atmosphere  was  ripe  again  for  quasi-military  storm  troops. 
The  declasses,  produced  through  nineteenth-century  economy,  had  to  grow 
numerically  until  they  were  strong  minorities  of  the  nations,  before  that 
coup  d’etat,  which  had  remained  but  a grotesque  plot 16  in  France,  could 
achieve  reality  in  Germany  almost  without  effort.  The  prelude  to  Nazism 
was  played  over  the  entire  European  stage.  The  Dreyfus  case,  therefore,  is 

13  Waldcmar  Gurian,  Der  integrate  N ationalismus  in  Frankreich : Charles  Maurras 
und  die  Action  Fruncaise,  Frankfurt-am-Main,  1931,  p.  92,  makes  a sharp  distinction 
between  the  monarchist  movement  and  other  reactionary  tendencies.  The  same  author 
discusses  the  Dreyfus  case  in  his  Die  polilischen  und  sozialen  ldeen  des  jranzosischen 
Katholizismus,  M.  Gladbach,  1929. 

14  For  the  creation  of  such  myths  on  both  sides,  Daniel  Halevy,  “Apologie  pour 
notre  passe,”  in  Cahiers  de  la  quinzaine,  Scries  XL,  No.  10,  1910. 

15  A distinctly  modern  note  is  struck  in  Zola’s  Letter  to  France  of  1898:  “We  hear 
on  all  sides  that  the  concept  of  liberty  has  gone  bankrupt.  When  the  Dreyfus  business 
cropped  up,  this  prevalent  hatred  of  liberty  found  a golden  opportunity.  . . . Don’t 
you  sec  that  the  only  reason  why  Scheurer-Kestner  has  been  attacked  with  such  fury 
is  that  he  belongs  to  a generation  which  believed  in  liberty  and  worked  for  it?  Today 
one  shrugs  one  s shoulders  at  such  things  . . . ‘Old  greybeards,’  one  laughs,  ‘outmoded 
greathearts.’  " Herzog,  op.  cit.,  under  date  of  January  6,  1898. 

10  The  farcical  nature  of  the  various  attempts  made  in  the  nineties  to  stage  a coup 
i ctat  was  clearly  analyzed  by  Rosa  Luxemburg  in  her  article,  “Die  soziale  Krise  in 
Frankreich,”  in  Die  Neue  Zeit,  Vol.  I,  1901. 



more  than  a bizarre,  imperfectly  solved  “crime,”  17  an  affair  of  staff  officers 
disguised  by  false  beards  and  dark  glasses,  peddling  their  stupid  forgeries 
by  night  in  the  streets  of  Paris.  Its  hero  is  not  Dreyfus  but  Clemenceau  and 
it  begins  not  with  the  arrest  of  a Jewish  staff  officer  but  with  the  Panama 

ii:  The  Third  Republic  and  French  Jewry 

between  1880  and  1888  the  Panama  Company,  under  the  leadership  of 
de  Lesseps,  who  had  constructed  the  Suez  Canal,  was  able  to  make  but 
little  practical  progress.  Nevertheless,  within  France  itself  it  succeeded  dur- 
ing this  period  in  raising  no  less  than  1,335,538,454  francs  in  private  loans.18 
This  success  is  the  more  significant  when  one  considers  the  carefulness  of 
the  French  middle  class  in  money  matters.  The  secret  of  the  company’s 
success  lies  in  the  fact  that  its  several  public  loans  were  invariably  backed 
by  Parliament.  The  building  of  the  Canal  was  generally  regarded  as  a public 
and  national  service  rather  than  as  a private  enterprise.  When  the  company 
went  bankrupt,  therefore,  it  was  the  foreign  policy  of  the  republic  that  really 
suffered  the  blow.  Only  after  a few  years  did  it  become  clear  that  even  more 
important  was  the  ruination  of  some  half-million  middle-class  Frenchmen. 
Both  the  press  and  the  Parliamentary  Commission  of  Inquiry  came  to  roughly 
the  same  conclusion:  the  company  had  already  been  bankrupt  for  several 
years.  De  Lesseps,  they  contended,  had  been  living  in  hopes  of  a miracle, 
cherishing  the  dream  that  new  funds  would  be  somehow  forthcoming  to  push 
on  with  the  work.  In  order  to  win  sanction  for  the  new  loans  he  had  been 
obliged  to  bribe  the  press,  half  of  Parliament,  and  all  of  the  higher  officials. 
This,  however,  had  called  for  the  employment  of  middlemen  and  these  in 
turn  had  commanded  exorbitant  commissions.  Thus,  the  very  thing  which 
had  originally  inspired  public  confidence  in  the  enterprise,  namely,  Parlia- 
ment’s backing  of  the  loans,  proved  in  the  end  the  factor  which  converted  a 
not  too  sound  private  business  into  a colossal  racket. 

There  were  no  Jews  either  among  the  bribed  members  of  Parliament  or 
on  the  board  of  the  company.  Jacques  Reinach  and  Cornelius  Herz,  however, 
vied  for  the  honor  of  distributing  the  baksheesh  among  the  members  of  the 
Chamber,  the  former  working  on  the  right  wing  of  the  bourgeois  parties  and 
the  latter  on  the  radicals  (the  anticlerical  parties  of  the  petty  bourgeoisie).19 
Reinach  was  the  secret  financial  counsellor  of  the  government  during  the 

17  Whether  Colonel  Henry  forged  the  bordereau  on  orders  from  the  chief  of  staff  or 
upon  his  own  initiative,  is  still  unknown.  Similarly,  the  attempted  assassination  of 
Labori,  counsel  for  Dreyfus  at  the  Rennes  tribunal,  has  never  been  properly  cleared 
up.  Cf.  Emile  Zola,  Correspondance:  lettres  a Maitre  Labori , Paris,  1929,  p.  32,  n.  1. 

18  Cf.  Walter  Frank,  Demokratie  und  N ationalismus  in  Frankreich , Hamburg,  1933, 
p.  273. 

19  Cf.  Georges  Suarez,  La  Vie  orgueilleuse  de  Clemenceau,  Paris,  1930,  p.  156. 



eighties  20  and  therefore  handled  its  relations  with  the  Panama  Company, 
while  Hcrz’s  role  was  a double  one.  On  the  one  hand  he  served  Reinach  as 
liaison  with  the  radical  wings  of  Parliament,  to  which  Reinach  himself  had 
no  access;  on  the  other  this  office  gave  him  such  a good  insight  into  the 
extent  of  the  corruption  that  he  was  able  constantly  to  blackmail  his  boss  and 
to  involve  him  ever  deeper  in  the  mess.21 

Naturally  there  were  quite  a number  of  smaller  Jewish  businessmen  work- 
ing for  both  Hcrz  and  Reinach.  Their  names,  however,  may  well  repose  in 
the  oblivion  into  which  they  have  deservedly  fallen.  The  more  uncertain  the 
situation  of  the  company,  the  higher,  naturally,  was  the  rate  of  commission, 
until  in  the  end  the  company  itself  received  but  little  of  the  moneys  advanced 
to  it.  Shortly  before  the  crash  Herz  received  for  a single  intra-parliamentary 
transaction  an  advance  of  no  less  than  600,000  francs.  The  advance,  how- 
ever, was  premature.  The  loan  was  not  taken  up  and  the  shareholders  were 
simply  600,000  francs  out  of  pocket.22  The  whole  ugly  racket  ended  dis- 
astrously for  Reinach.  Harassed  by  the  blackmail  of  Herz  he  finally  com- 
mitted suicide.23 

Shortly  before  his  death,  however,  he  had  taken  a step  the  consequences 
of  which  for  French  Jewry  can  scarcely  be  exaggerated.  He  had  given  the 
Libre  Parole,  Edouard  Drumont’s  antisemitic  daily,  his  list  of  suborned 
members  of  Parliament,  the  so-called  ‘‘remittance  men,”  imposing  as  the 
sole  condition  that  the  paper  should  cover  up  for  him  personally  when  it 
published  its  exposure.  The  Libre  Parole  was  transformed  overnight  from 
a small  and  politically  insignificant  sheet  into  one  of  the  most  influential 
papers  in  the  country,  with  300,000  circulation.  The  golden  opportunity 
proffered  by  Reinach  was  handled  with  consummate  care  and  skill.  The  list 
of  culprits  was  published  in  small  installments  so  that  hundreds  of  politicians 
had  to  live  on  tenterhooks  morning  after  morning.  Drumont’s  journal,  and 
with  it  the  entire  antisemitic  press  and  movement,  emerged  at  last  as  a 
dangerous  force  in  the  Third  Republic. 

The  Panama  scandal,  which,  in  Drumont’s  phrase,  rendered  the  invisible 
visible,  brought  with  it  two  revelations.  First,  it  disclosed  that  the  members 
of  Parliament  and  civil  servants  had  become  businessmen.  Secondly,  it 
showed  that  the  intermediaries  between  private  enterprise  (in  this  case, 
the  company)  and  the  machinery  of  the  state  were  almost  exclusively  Jews.24 

20  Such,  for  instance,  was  the  testimony  of  the  former  minister,  Rouvier,  before  the 
Commission  of  Inquiry. 

21  Barres  (quoted  by  Bemanos,  op.  cit.,  p.  271)  puts  the  matter  tersely:  “Whenever 
Reinach  had  swallowed  something,  it  was  Cornelius  Herz  who  knew  how  to  make 
him  disgorge  it.” 

22  Cf.  Frank,  op.  cit.,  in  the  chapter  headed  “Panama”;  cf.  Suarez,  op.  cit.,  p.  155. 

23  The  quarrel  between  Reinach  and  Herz  lends  to  the  Panama  scandal  an  air  of 
gangsterism  unusual  in  the  nineteenth  century.  In  his  resistance  to  Herz’s  blackmail 
Reinach  went  so  far  as  to  recruit  the  aid  of  former  police  inspectors  in  placing  a price 
of  ten  thousand  francs  on  the  head  of  his  rival;  cf.  Suarez,  op.  cit.,  p.  157. 

24  Cf.  Levaillant,  “La  Genese  de  l’antisemitisme  sous  la  troisieme  Republique,”  in 
Revue  des  etudes  juives,  Vol.  LIII  (1907),  p.  97. 



What  was  most  surprising  was  that  all  these  Jews  who  worked  in  such  an 
intimate  relationship  with  the  state  machinery  were  newcomers.  Up  to  the 
establishment  of  the  Third  Republic,  the  handling  of  the  finances  of  the 
state  had  been  pretty  well  monopolized  by  the  Rothschilds.  An  attempt  by 
their  rivals,  Pereires  Brothers,  to  wrest  part  of  it  from  their  hands  by  estab- 
lishing the  Credit  Mobilier  had  ended  in  a compromise.  And  in  1882,  the 
Rothschild  group  was  still  powerful  enough  to  drive  into  bankruptcy  the 
Catholic  Union  Generate,  the  real  purpose  of  which  had  been  to  ruin  Jewish 
bankers.25  Immediately  after  the  conclusion  of  the  peace  treaty  of  1871, 
whose  financial  provisions  had  been  handled  on  the  French  side  by  Roth- 
schild and  on  the  German  side  by  Bleichroeder,  a former  agent  of  the  house, 
the  Rothschilds  embarked  on  an  unprecedented  policy:  they  came  out  openly 
for  the  monarchists  and  against  the  republic.26  What  was  new  in  this  was 
not  the  monarchist  trend  but  the  fact  that  for  the  first  time  an  important 
Jewish  financial  power  set  itself  in  opposition  to  the  current  regime.  Up  to 
that  time  the  Rothschilds  had  accommodated  themselves  to  whatever  political 
system  was  in  power.  It  seemed,  therefore,  that  the  republic  was  the  first 
form  of  government  that  really  had  no  use  for  them. 

Both  the  political  influence  and  the  social  status  of  the  Jews  had  for  cen- 
turies been  due  to  the  fact  that  they  were  a closed  group  who  worked  directly 
for  the  state  and  were  directly  protected  by  it  on  account  of  their  special 
services.  Their  close  and  immediate  connection  with  the  machinery  of  gov- 
ernment was  possible  only  so  long  as  the  state  remained  at  a distance  from 
the  people,  while  the  ruling  classes  continued  to  be  indifferent  to  its  manage- 
ment. In  such  circumstances  the  Jews  were,  from  the  state’s  point  of  view, 
the  most  dependable  element  in  society  just  because  they  did  not  really  be- 
long to  it.  The  parliamentary  system  allowed  the  liberal  bourgeoisie  to  gain 
control  of  the  state  machine.  To  this  bourgeoisie,  however,  the  Jews  had 
never  belonged  and  they  therefore  regarded  it  with  a not  unwarranted  sus- 
picion. The  regime  no  longer  needed  the  Jews  as  much  as  before,  since  it 
was  now  possible  to  achieve  through  Parliament  a financial  expansion  be- 
yond the  wildest  dreams  of  the  former  more  or  less  absolute  or  constitutional 
monarchs.  Thus  the  leading  Jewish  houses  gradually  faded  from  the  scene  of 
finance  politics  and  betook  themselves  more  and  more  to  the  antisemitic 
salons  of  the  aristocracy,  there  to  dream  of  financing  reactionary  movements 
designed  to  restore  the  good  old  days.27  Meanwhile,  however,  other  Jewish 
circles,  newcomers  among  Jewish  plutocrats,  were  beginning  to  take  an  in- 

25  See  Bernard  Lazare,  Contre  VAntisemitisme:  histoire  d'une  polemique,  Paris,  1896. 

26  On  the  complicity  of  the  Haute  Banque  in  the  Orleanist  movement  see  G. 
Charensol,  op.  cit.  One  of  the  spokesmen  of  this  powerful  group  was  Arthur  Meyer, 
publisher  of  the  Gaulois.  A baptized  Jew,  Meyer  belonged  to  the  most  virulent  section 
of  the  Anti-Dreyfusards.  See  Clemenceau,  “Le  spectacle  du  jour,”  in  L’lniquite,  1899; 
see  also  the  entries  in  Hohenlohe’s  diary,  in  Herzog,  op.  cit.,  under  date  of  June  11, 

27  On  current  leanings  toward  Bonapartism  see  Frank,  op.  cit.,  p.  419,  based  upon 
unpublished  documents  taken  from  the  archives  of  the  German  ministry  of  foreign 



creasing  part  in  the  commercial  life  of  the  Third  Republic.  What  the 
Rothschilds  had  almost  forgotten  and  what  had  nearly  cost  them  their 
power  was  the  simple  fact  that  once  they  withdrew,  even  for  a moment, 
from  active  interest  in  a regime,  they  immediately  lost  their  influence  not 
only  upon  cabinet  circles  but  upon  the  Jews.  The  Jewish  immigrants  were 
the' first  to  see  their  chance.-8  They  realized  only  too  well  that  the  republic, 
as  it  had  developed,  was  not  the  logical  sequel  of  a united  people’s  uprising. 
Out  of  the  slaughter  of  some  20,000  Communards,  out  of  military  defeat 
and  economic  collapse,  what  had  in  fact  emerged  was  a regime  whose 
capacity  for  government  had  been  doubtful  from  its  inception.  So  much, 
indeed,  was  this  the  case  that  within  three  years  a society  brought  to  the 
brink  of  ruin  was  clamoring  for  a dictator.  And  when  it  got  one  in  President 
General  MacMahon  (whose  only  claim  to  distinction  was  his  defeat  at 
Sedan),  that  individual  had  promptly  turned  out  to  be  a parliamentarian  of 
the  old  school  and  after  a few  years  (1879)  resigned.  Meanwhile,  however, 
the  various  elements  in  society,  from  the  opportunists  to  the  radicals  and 
from  the  coalitionists  to  the  extreme  right,  had  made  up  their  minds  what 
kind  of  policies  they  required  from  their  representatives  and  what  methods 
they  ought  to  employ.  The  right  policy  was  defense  of  vested  interests  and 
the  right  method  was  corruption.29  After  1881,  swindle  (to  quote  Leon  Say) 
became  the  only  law. 

It  has  been  justly  observed  that  at  this  period  of  French  history  every 
political  party  had  its  Jew,  in  the  same  way  that  every  royal  household 
once  had  its  court  Jew.30  The  difference,  however,  was  profound.  Investment 
of  Jewish  capital  in  the  state  had  helped  to  give  the  Jews  a productive  role 
in  the  economy  of  Europe.  Without  their  assistance  the  eighteenth-century 
development  of  the  nation-state  and  its  independent  civil  service  would  have 
been  inconceivable.  It  was,  after  all,  to  these  court  Jews  that  Western  Jewry 
owed  its  emancipation.  The  shady  transactions  of  Reinach  and  his  con- 
federates did  not  even  lead  to  permanent  riches.31  All  they  did  was  to  shroud 

28  Jacques  Reinach  was  born  in  Germany,  received  an  Italian  barony  and  was 
naturalized  in  France.  Cornelius  Herz  was  bom  in  France,  the  son  of  Bavarian  parents. 
Migrating  to  America  in  early  youth,  he  acquired  citizenship  and  amassed  a fortune 
there.  For  further  details,  cf.  Brogan,  op.  cit.,  p.  268  ff. 

Characteristic  of  the  way  in  which  native  Jews  disappeared  from  public  office  is  the 
fact  that  as  soon  as  the  affairs  of  the  Panama  Company  began  to  go  badly,  Levy- 
Cremieux,  its  original  financial  adviser,  was  replaced  by  Reinach;  see  Brogan,  op.  cit.. 
Book  VI,  chapter  2. 

20  Georges  Lachapelle,  Les  Finances  de  la  Troisieme  Republique,  Paris,  1937,  pp. 
54  ff.,  describes  in  detail  how  the  bureaucracy  gained  control  of  public  funds  and 
how  the  Budget  Commission  was  governed  entirely  by  private  interests. 

With  regard  to  the  economic  status  of  members  of  Parliament  cf.  Bernanos,  op.  cit., 
p.  192:  “Most  of  them,  like  Gambetta,  lacked  even  a change  of  underclothes.” 

30  As  Frank  remarks  (op.  cit.,  pp.  321  ff.),  the  right  had  its  Arthur  Meyer,  Bou- 
langerism  its  Alfred  Naquet,  the  opportunists  their  Reinachs,  and  the  Radicals  their 
Dr.  Cornelius  Herz. 

3 1 To  these  newcomers  Drumont’s  charge  applies  (Les  Tretaux  du  succes,  Paris, 
1901,  p.  237):  “Those  great  Jews  who  start  from  nothing  and  attain  everything  . . . 
they  come  from  God  knows  where,  live  in  a mystery,  die  in  a guess.  . . . They  don’t 
arrive,  they  jump  up.  . . . They  don’t  die,  they  fade  out.” 



in  even  deeper  darkness  the  mysterious  and  scandalous  relations  between 
business  and  politics.  These  parasites  upon  a corrupt  body  served  to  provide 
a thoroughly  decadent  society  with  an  exceedingly  dangerous  alibi.  Since 
they  were  Jews  it  was  possible  to  make  scapegoats  of  them  when  public 
indignation  had  to  be  allayed.  Afterwards  things  could  go  on  the  same  old 
way.  The  antisemites  could  at  once  point  to  the  Jewish  parasites  on  a cor- 
rupt society  in  order  to  “prove”  that  all  Jews  everywhere  were  nothing  but 
termites  in  the  otherwise  healthy  body  of  the  people.  It  did  not  matter  to 
them  that  the  corruption  of  the  body  politic  had  started  without  the  help  of 
Jews;  that  the  policy  of  businessmen  (in  a bourgeois  society  to  which  Jews 
had  not  belonged)  and  their  ideal  of  unlimited  competition  had  led  to  the 
disintegration  of  the  state  in  party  politics;  that  the  ruling  classes  had  proved 
incapable  any  longer  of  protecting  their  own  interests,  let  alone  those  of 
the  country  as  a whole.  The  antisemites  who  called  themselves  patriots 
introduced  that  new  species  of  national  feeling  which  consists  primarily  in 
a complete  whitewash  of  one’s  own  people  and  a sweeping  condemnation 
of  all  others. 

The  Jews  could  remain  a separate  group  outside  of  society  only  so  long 
as  a more  or  less  homogeneous  and  stable  state  machine  had  a use  for  them 
and  was  interested  in  protecting  them.  The  decay  of  the  state  machine 
brought  about  the  dissolution  of  the  closed  ranks  of  Jewry,  which  had  so 
long  been  bound  up  with  it.  The  first  sign  of  this  appeared  in  the  affairs 
conducted  by  newly  naturalized  French  Jews  over  whom  their  native-born 
brethren  had  lost  control  in  much  the  same  way  as  occurred  in  the  Ger- 
many of  the  inflation  period.  The  newcomers  filled  the  gaps  between  the 
commercial  world  and  the  state. 

Far  more  disastrous  was  another  process  which  likewise  began  at  this 
time  and  which  was  imposed  from  above.  The  dissolution  of  the  state  into 
factions,  while  it  disrupted  the  closed  society  of  the  Jews,  did  not  force 
them  into  a vacuum  in  which  they  could  go  on  vegetating  outside  of  state 
and  society.  For  that  the  Jews  were  too  rich  and,  at  a time  when  money 
was  one  of  the  salient  requisites  of  power,  too  powerful.  Rather  did  they 
tend  to  become  absorbed  into  the  variety  of  social  “sets,”  in  accordance  with 
their  political  leanings  or,  more  frequently,  their  social  connections.  This, 
however,  did  not  lead  to  their  disappearance.  On  the  contrary,  they  main- 
tained certain  relations  with  the  state  machine  and  continued,  albeit  in  a 
crucially  different  form,  to  manipulate  the  business  of  the  state.  Thus,  despite 
their  known  opposition  to  the  Third  Republic,  it  was  none  other  than  the 
Rothschilds  who  undertook  the  placement  of  the  Russian  loan  while  Arthur 
Meyer,  though  baptized  and  an  avowed  monarchist,  was  among  those  in- 
volved in  the  Panama  scandal.  This  meant  that  the  newcomers  in  French 
Jewry  who  formed  the  principal  links  between  private  commerce  and  the 
machinery  of  government  were  followed  by  the  native-born.  But  if  the  Jews 
had  previously  constituted  a strong,  close-knit  group,  whose  usefulness  for 
the  state  was  obvious,  they  were  now  split  up  into  cliques,  mutually  antag- 
onistic but  all  bent  on  the  same  purpose  of  helping  society  to  batten  on  the 



in:  Army  and  Clergy  Against  the  Republic 

seemingly  removhd  from  all  such  factors,  seemingly  immune  from  all 
corruption,  stood  the  army,  a heritage  from  the  Second  Empire.  The  re- 
public had  never  dared  to  dominate  it,  even  when  monarchistic  sympathies 
and  intrigues  came  to  open  expression  in  the  Boulanger  crisis.  The  officer 
class  consisted  then  as  before  of  the  sons  of  those  old  aristocratic  families 
whose  ancestors,  as  emigres,  had  fought  against  their  fatherland  during  the 
revolutionary  wars.  These  officers  were  strongly  under  the  influence  of  the 
clergy  who  ever  since  the  Revolution  had  made  a point  of  supporting  re- 
actionary and  antirepublican  movements.  Their  influence  was  perhaps 
equally  strong  over  those  officers  who  were  of  somewhat  lower  birth  but 
who  hoped,  as  a result  of  the  Church’s  old  practice  of  marking  talent  without 
regard  to  pedigree,  to  gain  promotion  with  the  help  of  the  clergy. 

In  contrast  to  the  shifting  and  fluid  cliques  of  society  and  Parliament, 
where  admission  was  easy  and  allegiance  fickle,  stood  the  rigorous  exclusive- 
ness of  the  army,  so  characteristic  of  the  caste  system.  It  was  neither  mili- 
tary life,  professional  honor,  nor  esprit  de  corps  that  held  its  officers  together 
to  form  a reactionary  bulwark  against  the  republic  and  against  all  democratic 
influences;  it  was  simply  the  tie  of  caste.32  The  refusal  of  the  state  to  democ- 
ratize the  army  and  to  subject  it  to  the  civil  authorities  entailed  remarkable 
consequences.  It  made  the  army  an  entity  outside  of  the  nation  and  created 
an  armed  power  whose  loyalties  could  be  turned  in  directions  which  none 
could  foretell.  That  this  caste-ridden  pow'er,  if  but  left  to  itself,  was  neither 
for  nor  against  anyone  is  shown  clearly  by  the  story  of  the  almost  burlesque 
coups  d'etat  in  which,  despite  statements  to  the  contrary,  it  was  really  un- 
willing to  take  part.  Even  its  notorious  monarchism  was,  in  the  final  analysis, 
nothing  but  an  excuse  for  preserving  itself  as  an  independent  interest-group, 
ready  to  defend  its  privileges  ‘‘without  regard  to  and  in  despite  of,  even 
against  the  republic.”  33  Contemporary  journalists  and  later  historians  have 
made  valiant  efforts  to  explain  the  conflict  between  military  and  civil  powers 
during  the  Dreyfus  Affair  in  terms  of  an  antagonism  between  “businessmen 
and  soldiers.”  31  We  know  today,  however,  how  unjustified  is  this  indirectly 
antisemitic  interpretation.  The  intelligence  department  of  the  General  Staff 
were  themselves  reasonably  expert  at  business.  Were  they  not  trafficking  as 

32  See  ihe  excellent  anonymous  article,  “The  Dreyfus  Case:  A Study  of  French 
Opinion,"  in  The  Contemporary  Review,  Vol.  LXXIV  (October,  1898). 

33  Sec  Luxemburg,  loc.  cit “The  reason  the  army  was  reluctant  to  make  a move 
was  that  it  wanted  to  show  its  opposition  to  the  civil  power  of  the  republic,  without 
at  the  same  time  losing  the  force  of  that  opposition  by  committing  itself  to  a monarchy.” 

34  It  is  under  this  caption  that  Maximilian  Harden  (a  German  Jew)  described  the 
Dreyfus  case  in  Die  Zukunfi  (1898).  Walter  Frank,  the  antisemitic  historian,  employs 
the  same  slogan  in  the  heading  of  his  chapter  on  Dreyfus  while  Bernanos  {op.  cit., 
p.  413)  remarks  in  the  same  vein  that  “rightly  or  wrongly,  democracy  sees  in  the  mili- 
tary its  most  dangerous  rival.” 



openly  in  forged  bordereaux  and  selling  them  as  nonchalantly  to  foreign 
military  attaches  as  a leather  merchant  might  traffic  in  skins  and  then  become 
President  of  the  Republic,  or  the  son-in-law  of  the  President  traffic  in  honors 
and  distinctions?  35  Indeed,  the  zeal  of  Schwartzkoppen,  the  German  attache, 
who  was  anxious  to  discover  more  military  secrets  than  France  had  to  hide, 
must  have  been  a positive  source  of  embarrassment  to  these  gentlemen  of 
the  counterespionage  service  who,  after  all,  could  sell  no  more  than  they 

It  was  the  great  mistake  of  Catholic  politicians  to  imagine  that,  in  pursuit 
of  their  European  policy,  they  could  make  use  of  the  French  army  simply 
because  it  appeared  to  be  antirepublican.  The  Church  was,  in  fact,  slated 
to  pay  for  this  error  with  the  loss  of  its  entire  political  influence  in  France.36 
When  the  department  of  intelligence  finally  emerged  as  a common  fake 
factory,  as  Esterhazy,  who  was  in  a position  to  know,  described  the  Deuxieme 
Bureau,37  no  one  in  France,  not  even  the  army,  was  so  seriously  compro- 
mised as  the  Church.  Toward  the  end  of  the  last  century  the  Catholic  clergy 
had  been  seeking  to  recover  its  old  political  power  in  just  those  quarters 
where,  for  one  or  another  reason,  secular  authority  was  on  the  wane  among 
the  people.  Cases  in  point  were  those  of  Spain,  where  a decadent  feudal 
aristocracy  had  brought  about  the  economic  and  cultural  ruin  of  the  coun- 
try, and  Austria-Hungary,  where  a conflict  of  nationalities  was  threatening 
daily  to  disrupt  the  state.  And  such  too  was  the  case  in  France,  where  the 
nation  appeared  to  be  sinking  fast  into  the  slough  of  conflicting  interests.38 
The  army — left  in  a political  vacuum  by  the  Third  Republic — gladly  ac- 
cepted the  guidance  of  the  Catholic  clergy  which  at  least  provided  for  civilian 
leadership  without  which  the  military  lose  their  “raison  d'etre  (which)  is  to 
defend  the  principle  embodied  in  civilian  society” — as  Clemenceau  put  it. 

The  Catholic  Church  then  owed  its  popularity  to  the  widespread  popular 
skepticism  which  saw  in  the  republic  and  in  democracy  the  loss  of  all  order, 
security,  and  political  will.  To  many  the  hierarchic  system  of  the  Church 
seemed  the  only  escape  from  chaos.  Indeed,  it  was  this,  rather  than  any 
religious  revivalism,  which  caused  the  clergy  to  be  held  in  respect.39  As  a 
matter  of  fact,  the  staunchest  supporters  of  the  Church  at  that  period  were 
the  exponents  of  that  so-called  “cerebral”  Catholicism,  the  “Catholics  with- 
out faith,”  who  were  henceforth  to  dominate  the  entire  monarchist  and  ex- 

35  The  Panama  scandal  was  preceded  by  the  so-called  “Wilson  affair.”  The  Presi- 
dent’s son-in-law  was  found  conducting  an  open  traffic  in  honors  and  decorations. 

36  See  Father  Edouard  Lecanuet,  Les  Signes  avant-coureurs  de  la  separation , 1894 - 
1910,  Paris,  1930. 

37  See  Bruno  Weil,  V Affaire  Dreyfus,  Paris,  1930,  p.  169. 

38  Cf.  Clemenceau,  “La  Croisade,”  op.  cit.:  “Spain  is  writhing  under  the  yoke 
of  the  Roman  Church.  Italy  appears  to  have  succumbed.  The  only  countries  left  are 
Catholic  Austria,  already  in  her  death-struggle,  and  the  France  of  the  Revolution, 
against  which  the  papal  hosts  are  even  now  deployed.” 

39  Cf.  Bernanos,  op.  cit.,  p.  152:  “The  point  cannot  be  sufficiently  repeated:  the 
real  beneficiaries  of  that  movement  of  reaction  which  followed  the  fall  of  the  empire 
and  the  defeat  were  the  clergy.  Thanks  to  them  national  reaction  assumed  after  1873 
the  character  of  a religious  revival.” 



treme  nationalist  movement.  Without  believing  in  their  other-worldly  basis, 
these  “Catholics”  clamored  for  more  power  to  all  authoritarian  institutions. 
This,  indeed,  had  been  the  line  first  laid  down  by  Drumont  and  later  endorsed 
by  Maurras.40 

The  large  majority  of  the  Catholic  clergy,  deeply  involved  in  political 
maneuvers,  followed  a policy  of  accommodation.  In  this,  as  the  Dreyfus 
Affair  makes  clear,  they  were  conspicuously  successful.  Thus,  when  Victor 
Basch  took  up  the  cause  for  a retrial  his  house  at  Rennes  was  stormed  under 
the  leadership  of  three  priests,41  while  no  less  distinguished  a figure  than  the 
Dominican  Father  Didon  called  on  the  students  of  the  College  D’Arcueil 
to  “draw  the  sword,  terrorize,  cut  off  heads  and  run  amok.”  42  Similar  too 
was  the  outlook  of  the  three  hundred  lesser  clerics  who  immortalized  them- 
selves in  the  “Henry  Memorial,”  as  the  Libre  Parole's  list  of  subscribers  to  a 
fund  for  the  benefit  of  Madame  Henry  (widow  of  the  Colonel  who  had  com- 
mitted suicide  while  in  prison  43 ) was  called,  and  which  certainly  is  a monu- 
ment for  all  time  to  the  shocking  corruption  of  the  upper  classes  of  the 
French  people  at  that  date.  During  the  period  of  the  Dreyfus  crisis  it  was 
not  her  regular  clergy,  not  her  ordinary  religious  orders,  and  certainly  not 
her  homines  religiosi  who  influenced  the  political  line  of  the  Catholic  Church. 
As  far  as  Europe  was  concerned,  her  reactionary  policies  in  France,  Austria, 
and  Spain,  as  well  as  her  support  of  antisemitic  trends  in  Vienna,  Paris,  and 
Algiers  were  probably  an  immediate  consequence  of  Jesuit  influence.  It  was 
the  Jesuits  who  had  always  best  represented,  both  in  the  written  and  spoken 
word,  the  antisemitic  school  of  the  Catholic  clergy.44  This  is  largely  the 
consequence  of  their  statutes  according  to  which  each  novice  must  prove  that 
he  has  no  Jewish  blood  back  to  the  fourth  generation.45  And  since  the  be- 
ginning of  the  nineteenth  century  the  direction  of  the  Church’s  international 
policy  had  passed  into  their  hands.46 

40  On  Drumont  and  the  origin  of  “cerebral  Catholicism,”  see  Bernanos,  op.  cit., 
pp.  127  ff. 

41  Cf.  Herzog,  op.  cit.,  under  date  of  January  21,  1898. 

42  See  Lecanuet,  op.  cit.,  p.  182. 

43  See  above,  note  10. 

44  The  Jesuits’  magazine  Civilta  Cattolica  was  for  decades  the  most  outspokenly 
antisemitic  and  one  of  Lhe  most  influential  Catholic  magazines  in  the  world.  It  carried 
anti-Jewish  propaganda  long  before  Italy  went  Fascist,  and  its  policy  was  not  affected 
by  the  anti-Christian  attitude  of  the  Nazis.  See  Joshua  Starr,  “Italy’s  Antisemites,”  in 
Jewish  Social  Studies,  1939. 

According  to  L.  Koch,  S.J.:  “Of  all  orders,  the  Society  of  Jesus  through  its  con- 
stitution is  best  protected  against  any  Jewish  influences.”  In  Jesuiten-Lexikon,  Pader- 
born,  1934,  article  “Juden.” 

45  Originally,  according  to  the  Convention  of  1593,  all  Christians  of  Jewish  descent 
were  excluded.  A decree  of  1608  stipulated  reinvestigations  back  to  the  fifth  generation; 
the  last  provision  of  1923  reduced  this  to  four  generations.  These  requirements  can  be 
waived  oy  the  chief  of  the  order  in  individual  cases. 

46  Cf.  H.  Boehmer,  Les  Jesuites,  translated  from  the  German,  Paris,  1910,  p.  284: 

Since  1820  ...  no  such  thing  as  independent  national  churches  able  to  resist  the 

Jesuit-dictated  orders  of  the  Pope  has  existed.  The  higher  clergy  of  our  day  have  pitched 
their  tents  in  front  of  the  Holy  See  and  the  Church  has  become  what  Bellarmin,  the 



We  have  already  observed  how  the  dissolution  of  the  state  machinery 
facilitated  the  entry  of  the  Rothschilds  into  the  circles  of  the  antisemitic 
aristocracy.  The  fashionable  set  of  Faubourg  Saint-Germain  opened  its 
doors  not  only  to  a few  ennobled  Jews,  but  their  baptized  sycophants,  the 
antisemitic  Jews,  were  also  suffered  to  drift  in  as  well  as  complete  new- 
comers.47 Curiously  enough,  the  Jews  of  Alsace,  who  like  the  Dreyfus  family 
had  moved  to  Paris  following  the  cession  of  that  territory,  took  an  especially 
prominent  part  in  this  social  climb.  Their  exaggerated  patriotism  came  out 
most  markedly  in  the  way  they  strove  to  dissociate  themselves  from  Jewish 
immigrants.  The  Dreyfus  family  belonged  to  that  section  of  French  Jewry 
which  sought  to  assimilate  by  adopting  its  own  brand  of  antisemitism.43 
This  adjustment  to  the  French  aristocracy  had  one  inevitable  result:  the 
Jews  tried  to  launch  their  sons  upon  the  same  higher  military  careers  as 
were  pursued  by  those  of  their  new-found  friends.  It  was  here  that  the  first 
cause  of  friction  arose.  The  admission  of  the  Jews  into  high  society  had 
been  relatively  peaceful.  The  upper  classes,  despite  their  dreams  of  a restored 
monarchy,  were  a politically  spineless  lot  and  did  not  bother  unduly  one 
way  or  the  other.  But  when  the  Jews  began  seeking  equality  in  the  army, 
they  came  face  to  face  with  the  determined  opposition  of  the  Jesuits  who 
were  not  prepared  to  tolerate  the  existence  of  officers  immune  to  the  influence 
of  the  confessional.49  Moreover,  they  came  up  against  an  inveterate  caste 
spirit,  which  the  easy  atmosphere  of  the  salons  had  led  them  to  forget,  a 
caste  spirit  which,  already  strengthened  by  tradition  and  calling,  was  still 
further  fortified  by  uncompromising  hostility  to  the  Third  Republic  and 
to  the  civil  administration. 

A modern  historian  has  described  the  struggle  between  Jews  and  Jesuits 
as  a “struggle  between  two  rivals,”  in  which  the  “higher  Jesuit  clergy  and 
the  Jewish  plutocracy  stood  facing  one  another  in  the  middle  of  France  like 
two  invisible  lines  of  battle.”  50  The  description  is  true  insofar  as  the  Jews 

great  Jesuit  controversialist,  always  demanded  it  should  become,  an  absolute  monarchy 
whose  policies  can  be  directed  by  the  Jesuits  and  whose  development  can  be  deter- 
mined by  pressing  a button.” 

47  Cf.  Clemenceau,  “Le  spectacle  du  jour,”  in  op.  cit.:  “Rothschild,  friend  of  the 
entire  antisemitic  nobility  ...  of  a piece  with  Arthur  Meyer,  who  is  more  papist 
than  the  Pope.” 

48  On  the  Alsatian  Jews,  to  whom  Dreyfus  belonged,  see  Andre  Foucault,  Un 
nouvel  aspect  de  1’Affaire  Dreyfus , in  Les  Oeuvres  Libres,  1938,  p.  310:  “In  the  eyes 
of  the  Jewish  bourgeoisie  of  Paris  they  were  the  incarnation  of  nationalist  raideur  . . . 
that  attitude  of  distant  disdain  which  the  gentry  affects  towards  its  parvenu  co-religion- 
ists. Their  desire  to  assimilate  completely  to  Gallic  modes,  to  live  on  intimate  terms 
with  our  old-established  families,  to  occupy  the  most  distinguished  positions  in  the 
state,  and  the  contempt  which  they  showed  for  the  commercial  elements  of  Jewry, 
for  the  recently  naturalized  ‘Polaks’  of  Galicia,  gave  them  almost  the  appearance  of 
traitors  against  their  own  race.  . . . The  Dreyfuses  of  1894?  Why,  they  were  anti- 

49  Cf.  “K.V.T.”  in  The  Contemporary  Review , LXXIV,  598:  “By  the  will  of  the 
democracy  all  Frenchmen  are  to  be  soldiers;  by  the  will  of  the  Church  Catholics  only 
are  to  hold  the  chief  commands.” 

60  Herzog,  op.  cit .,  p.  35. 



found  in  the  Jesuits  their  first  unappeasable  foes,  while  the  latter  came 
promptly  to  realize  how  powerful  a weapon  antisemitism  could  be.  This 
was  the  first  attempt  and  the  only  one  prior  to  Hitler  to  exploit  the  “major 
political  concept”  51  of  antisemitism  on  a Pan-European  scale.  On  the  other 
hand,  however,  if  it  is  assumed  that  the  struggle  was  one  of  two  equally 
matched  “rivals”  the  description  is  palpably  false.  The  Jews  sought  no 
higher  degree  of  power  than  was  being  wielded  by  any  of  the  other  cliques 
into  which  the  republic  had  split.  All  they  desired  at  the  time  was  sufficient 
influence  to  pursue  their  social  and  business  interests.  They  did  not  aspire  to 
a political  share  in  the  management  of  the  state.  The  only  organized  group 
who  sought  that  were  the  Jesuits.  The  trial  of  Dreyfus  was  preceded  by  a 
number  of  incidents  which  show  how  resolutely  and  energetically  the  Jews 
tried  to  gain  a place  in  the  army  and  how  common,  even  at  that  time,  was 
the  hostility  toward  them.  Constantly  subjected  to  gross  insult,  the  few 
Jewish  officers  there  were  were  obliged  always  to  fight  duels  while  Gentile 
comrades  were  unwilling  to  act  as  their  seconds.  It  is,  indeed,  in  this  con- 
nection that  the  infamous  Esterhazy  first  comes  upon  the  scene  as  an  excep- 
tion to  the  rule.62 

It  has  always  remained  somewhat  obscure  whether  the  arrest  and  con- 
demnation of  Dreyfus  was  simply  a judicial  error  which  just  happened  by 
chance  to  light  up  a political  conflagration,  or  whether  the  General  Staff 
deliberately  planted  the  forged  bordereau  for  the  express  purpose  of  at  last 
branding  a Jew  as  a traitor.  In  favor  of  the  latter  hypothesis  is  the  fact  that 
Dreyfus  was  the  first  Jew  to  find  a post  on  the  General  Staff  and  under  exist- 
ing conditions  this  could  only  have  aroused  not  merely  annoyance  but  posi- 
tive fury  and  consternation.  In  any  case  anti-Jewish  hatred  was  unleashed 
even  before  the  verdict  was  returned.  Contrary  to  custom,  which  demanded 
the  withholding  of  all  information  in  a spy  case  still  sub  iudice,  officers  of 
the  General  Staff  cheerfully  supplied  the  Libre  Parole  with  details  of  the  case 
and  the  name  of  the  accused.  Apparently  they  feared  lest  Jewish  influence 
with  the  government  lead  to  a suppression  of  the  trial  and  a stifling  of  the 
whole  business.  Some  show  of  plausibility  was  afforded  these  fears  by  the 
fact  that  certain  circles  of  French  Jewry  were  known  at  the  time  to  be 
seriously  concerned  about  the  precarious  situation  of  Jewish  officers. 

61  Cf.  Bernanos,  op.  cii.,  p.  151:  “So,  shorn  of  ridiculous  hyperbole,  antisemitism 
showed  itself  for  what  it  really  is:  not  a mere  piece  of  crankiness,  a mental  quirk, 
bul  a major  political  concept.” 

52  See  Esterhazy’s  letter  of  July,  1894,  to  Edmond  de  Rothschild,  quoted  by  J. 
Reinach,  op.  cii.,  II,  53  ff. : “I  did  not  hesitate  when  Captain  Cremieux  could  find  no 
Christian  officer  to  act  as  his  second.”  Cf.  T.  Reinach,  Histolre  sommaire  de  l’ Affaire 
Dreyfus,  pp.  60  ff.  See  also  Herzog,  op.  cit.,  under  date  of  1892  and  June,  1894,  where 
these  duels  are  listed  in  detail  and  all  of  Eslerhazy’s  intermediaries  named.  The  last 
occasion  was  in  September,  1896,  when  he  received  10,000  francs.  This  misplaced 
generosity  was  later  to  have  disquieting  results.  When,  from  the  comfortable  security 
of  England,  Esterhazy  at  length  made  his  revelations  and  thereby  compelled  a revision 
of  the  case,  the  aniiscmilic  press  naturally  suggested  that  he  had  been  paid  by  the 
Jews  for  his  self-condemnation.  The  idea  is  still  advanced  as  a major  argument  in 
favor  of  Dreyfus’  guilt. 



It  must  also  be  remembered  that  the  Panama  scandal  was  then  fresh  in 
the  public  mind  and  that  following  the  Rothschild  loan  to  Russia  distrust  of 
the  Jews  had  grown  considerably.53  War  Minister  Mercier  was  not  only 
lauded  by  the  bourgeois  press  at  every  fresh  turn  of  the  trial  but  even  Jaimes’ 
paper,  the  organ  of  the  socialists,  congratulated  him  on  “having  opposed  the 
formidable  pressure  of  corrupt  politicians  and  high  finance.”  64  Character- 
istically this  encomium  drew  from  the  Libre  Parole  the  unstinted  commenda- 
tion, “Bravo,  Jaures!”  Two  years  later,  when  Bernard  Lazare  published  his 
first  pamphlet  on  the  miscarriage  of  justice,  Jaures’  paper  carefully  refrained 
from  discussing  its  contents  but  charged  the  socialist  author  with  being  an 
admirer  of  Rothschild  and  probably  a paid  agent.55  Similarly,  as  late  as  1897, 
when  the  fight  for  Dreyfus’  reinstatement  had  already  begun,  Jaures  could 
see  nothing  in  it  but  the  conflict  of  two  bourgeois  groups,  the  opportunists 
and  the  clerics.  Finally,  even  after  the  Rennes  retrial  Wilhelm  Liebknecht, 
the  German  Social  Democrat,  still  believed  in  the  guilt  of  Dreyfus  because 
he  could  not  imagine  that  a member  of  the  upper  classes  could  ever  be  the 
victim  of  a false  verdict.66 

The  skepticism  of  the  radical  and  socialist  press,  strongly  colored  as  it 
was  by  anti-Jewish  feelings,  was  strengthened  by  the  bizarre  tactics  of  the 
Dreyfus  family  in  its  attempt  to  secure  a retrial.  In  trying  to  save  an  inno- 
cent man  they  employed  the  very  methods  usually  adopted  in  the  case  of  a 
guilty  one.  They  stood  in  mortal  terror  of  publicity  and  relied  exclusively  on 
back-door  maneuvers.57  They  were  lavish  with  their  cash  and  treated  Lazare, 
one  of  their  most  valuable  helpers  and  one  of  the  greatest  figures  in  the  case, 
as  if  he  were  their  paid  agent.58  Clemenceau,  Zola,  Picquard,  and  Labori — to 

53  Herzog,  op.  cit.y  under  date  of  1892  shows  at  length  how  the  Rothschilds  began 
to  adapt  themselves  to  the  republic.  Curiously  enough  the  papal  policy  of  coalitionism, 
which  represents  an  attempt  at  rapprochement  by  the  Catholic  Church,  dates  from 
precisely  the  same  year.  It  is  therefore  not  impossible  that  the  Rothschild  line  was 
influenced  by  the  clergy.  As  for  the  loan  of  500  million  francs  to  Russia,  Count 
Munster  pertinently  observed:  “Speculation  is  dead  in  France.  . . . The  capitalists 
can  find  no  way  of  negotiating  their  securities  . . . and  this  will  contribute  to  the 
success  of  the  loan.  . . . The  big  Jews  believe  that  if  they  make  money  they  will  best 
be  able  to  help  their  small-time  brethren.  The  result  is  that,  though  the  French  market 
is  glutted  with  Russian  securities,  Frenchmen  are  still  giving  good  francs  for  bad 
roubles”;  Herzog,  ibid. 

64  Cf.  J.  Reinach,  op.  cit.,  I,  471. 

65  Cf.  Herzog,  op.  cit.,  p.  212. 

66  Cf.  Max  J.  Kohler,  “Some  New  Light  on  the  Dreyfus  Case,”  in  Studies  in  Jewish 
Bibliography  and  Related  Subjects  in  Memory  of  A.  S.  Freidus,  New  York,  1929. 

67  The  Dreyfus  family,  for  instance,  summarily  rejected  the  suggestion  of  Arthur 
Levy,  the  writer,  and  Levy-Bruhl,  the  scholar,  that  they  should  circulate  a petition  of 
protest  among  all  leading  figures  of  public  life.  Instead  they  embarked  on  a series  of 
personal  approaches  to  any  politician  with  whom  they  happened  to  have  contact; 
cf.  Dutrait-Crozon,  op.  cit.,  p.  51.  See  also  Foucault,  op.  cit.,  p.  309:  “At  this  distance, 
one  may  wonder  at  the  fact  that  the  French  Jews,  instead  of  working  on  the  papers 
secretly,  did  not  give  adequate  and  open  expression  to  their  indignation.” 

58  Cf.  Herzog,  op.  cit.,  under  date  of  December,  1894  and  January,  1898.  See  also 
Charensol,  op.  cit.,  p.  79,  and  Charles  Peguy,  “Le  Portrait  de  Bernard  Lazare,”  in 
Cahiers  de  la  quinzaine,  Series  XI,  No.  2 (1910). 



name  but  the  more  active  of  the  Dreyfusards — could  in  the  end  only  save 
their  good  names  by  dissociating  their  efforts,  with  greater  or  less  fuss  and 
publicity,  from  the  more  concrete  aspects  of  the  issue.50 

There  was  only  one  basis  on  which  Dreyfus  could  or  should  have  been 
saved.  The  intrigues  of  a corrupt  Parliament,  the  dry  rot  of  a collapsing 
society,  and  the  clergy’s  lust  for  power  should  have  been  met  squarely  with 
the  stern  Jacobin  concept  of  the  nation  based  upon  human  rights — that 
republican  view  of  communal  life  which  asserts  that  (in  the  words  of 
Clemenceau)  by  infringing  on  the  rights  of  one  you  infringe  on  the  rights 
of  all.  To  rely  on  Parliament  or  on  society  was  to  lose  the  fight  before  be- 
ginning it.  For  one  thing  the  resources  of  Jewry  were  in  no  way  superior 
to  those  of  the  rich  Catholic  bourgeoisie;  for  another  all  of  the  higher  strata 
of  society,  from  the  clerical  and  aristocratic  families  of  the  Faubourg  Saint- 
Germain  to  the  anticlerical  and  radical  petty  bourgeoisie,  were  only  too 
willing  to  see  the  Jews  formally  removed  from  the  body  politic.  In  this  way, 
they  reckoned,  they  would  be  able  to  purge  themselves  of  possible  taint. 
The  loss  of  Jewish  social  and  commercial  contacts  seemed  to  them  a price 
well  worth  paying.  Similarly,  as  the  utterances  of  Jaures  indicate,  the  Affair 
was  regarded  by  Parliament  as  a golden  opportunity  for  rehabilitating,  or 
rather  regaining,  its  time-honored  reputation  for  incorruptibility.  Last,  but 
by  no  means  least,  in  the  countenancing  of  such  slogans  as  “Death  to  the 
Jew's”  or  “France  for  the  French”  an  almost  magic  formula  was  discovered 
for  reconciling  the  masses  to  the  existent  state  of  government  and  society. 

iv:  The  People  and  the  Mob 

if  it  is  the  common  error  of  our  time  to  imagine  that  propaganda  can  achieve 
all  things  and  that  a man  can  be  talked  into  anything  provided  the  talking  is 
sufficiently  loud  and  cunning,  in  that  period  it  was  commonly  believed  that 
the  “voice  of  the  people  was  the  voice  of  God,”  and  that  the  task  of  a leader 
was,  as  Clemenceau  so  scornfully  expressed  it,60  to  follow  that  voice  shrewdly. 

69  Labori’s  withdrawal,  after  Dreyfus’  family  had  hurriedly  withdrawn  the  brief 
from  him  while  the  Rennes  tribunal  was  still  sitting,  caused  a major  scandal.  An  ex- 
haustive, if  greatly  exaggerated,  account  will  be  found  in  Frank,  op . cit.,  p.  432. 
Labori’s  own  statement,  which  speaks  eloquently  for  his  nobility  of  character,  ap- 
peared in  La  Grande  Revue  (February,  1900).  After  what  had  happened  to  his 
counsel  and  friend  Zola  at  once  broke  relations  with  the  Dreyfus  family.  As  for 
Picquard,  the  Echo  de  Paris  (November  30,  1901)  reported  that  after  Rennes  he 
had  nothing  more  to  do  with  the  Dreyfuses.  Clemenceau  in  face  of  the  fact  that  the 
whole  of  France,  or  even  the  whole  world,  grasped  the  real  meaning  of  the  trials 
better  than  the  accused  or  his  family,  was  more  inclined  to  consider  the  incident 
humorous;  cf.  Weil,  op.  cit.,  pp.  307-8. 

6 Cf.  Clemenceau’s  article,  February  2,  1898,  in  op.  cit.  On  the  futility  of  trying 
to  win  the  workers  with  antisemitic  slogans  and  especially  on  the  attempts  of  Leon 
Daudet,  see  the  Royalist  writer  Dimier,  Vingt  ans  d’Action  Frangaise,  Paris,  1926. 


Both  views  go  back  to  the  same  fundamental  error  of  regarding  the  mob  as 
identical  with  rather  than  as  a caricature  of  the  people. 

The  mob  is  primarily  a group  in  which  the  residue  of  all  classes  are  repre- 
sented. This  makes  it  so  easy  to  mistake  the  mob  for  the  people,  which  also 
comprises  all  strata  of  society.  While  the  people  in  all  great  revolutions 
fight  for  true  representation,  the  mob  always  will  shout  for  the  “strong 
man,”  the  “great  leader.”  For  the  mob  hates  society  from  which  it  is  excluded, 
as  well  as  Parliament  where  it  is  not  represented.  Plebiscites,  therefore,  with 
which  modern  mob  leaders  have  obtained  such  excellent  results,  are  an  old 
concept  of  politicians  who  rely  upon  the  mob.  One  of  the  more  intelligent 
leaders  of  the  Anti-Dreyfusards,  Deroulede,  clamored  for  a “Republic 
through  plebiscite.” 

High  society  and  politicians  of  the  Third  Republic  had  produced  the 
French  mob  in  a series  of  scandals  and  public  frauds.  They  now  felt  a tender 
sentiment  of  parental  familiarity  with  their  offspring,  a feeling  mixed  with 
admiration  and  fear.  The  least  society  could  do  for  its  offspring  was  to  pro- 
tect it  verbally.  While  the  mob  actually  stormed  Jewish  shops  and  assailed 
Jews  in  the  streets,  the  language  of  high  society  made  real,  passionate  vio- 
lence look  like  harmless  child’s  play.61  The  most  important  of  the  con- 
temporary documents  in  this  respect  is  the  “Henry  Memorial”  and  the 
various  solutions  it  proposed  to  the  Jewish  question:  Jews  were  to  be  torn 
to  pieces  like  Marsyas  in  the  Greek  myth;  Reinach  ought  to  be  boiled  alive; 
Jews  should  be  stewed  in  oil  or  pierced  to  death  with  needles;  they  should 
be  “circumcised  up  to  the  neck.”  One  group  of  officers  expressed  great  im- 
patience to  try  out  a new  type  of  gun  on  the  100,000  Jews  in  the  country. 
Among  the  subscribers  were  more  than  1,000  officers,  including  four  gen- 
erals in  active  service,  and  the  minister  of  war,  Mercier.  The  relatively  large 
number  of  intellectuals  62  and  even  of  Jews  in  the  list  is  surprising.  The  upper 
classes  knew  that  the  mob  was  flesh  of  their  flesh  and  blood  of  their  blood. 
Even  a Jewish  historian  of  the  time,  although  he  had  seen  with  his  own  eyes 
that  Jews  are  no  longer  safe  when  the  mob  rules  the  street,  spoke  with  secret 
admiration  of  the  “great  collective  movement.” 63  This  only  shows  how 
deeply  most  Jews  were  rooted  in  a society  which  was  attempting  to  eliminate 

If  Bernanos,  with  reference  to  the  Dreyfus  Affair,  describes  antisemitism 
as  a major  political  concept,  he  is  undoubtedly  right  with  respect  to  the  mob. 

61  Very  characteristic  in  this  respect  are  the  various  depictions  of  contemporary 
society  in  J.  Reinach,  op.  cit.,  I,  233  ff.;  Ill,  141:  “Society  hostesses  fell  in  step  with 
Guerin.  Their  language  (which  scarcely  outran  their  thoughts)  would  have  struck 
horror  in  the  Amazon  of  Damohey  . . .”  Of  special  interest  in  this  connection  is  an 
article  by  Andre  Chevrillon,  “Huit  Jours  a Rennes,”  in  La  Grande  Revue,  February, 
1900.  He  relates,  inter  alia,  the  following  revealing  incident:  “A  physician  speaking  to 
some  friends  of  mine  about  Dreyfus,  chanced  to  remark,  ‘I’d  like  to  torture  him.’  ‘And 
I wish,’  rejoined  one  of  the  ladies,  ‘that  he  were  innocent.  Then  he’d  suffer  more.’  ” 

62  The  intellectuals  include,  strangely  enough,  Paul  Valery,  who  contributed  three 
francs  unon  sans  reflexion.” 

63  J.  Reinach,  op.  cit.,  I,  233. 



It  had  been  tried  out  previously  in  Berlin  and  Vienna,  by  Ahlwardt  and 
Stoecker,  by  Schoenerer  and  Lucger,  but  nowhere  was  its  efficacy  more 
clearly  proved  than  in  France.  There  can  be  no  doubt  that  in  the  eyes  of 
the  mob  the  Jews  came  to  serve  as  an  object  lesson  for  all  the  things  they 
detested.  If  they  hated  society  they  could  point  to  the  way  in  which  the  Jews 
were  tolerated  within  it;  and  if  they  hated  the  government  they  could  point 
to  the  way  in  which  the  Jews  had  been  protected  by  or  were  identifiable  with 
the  state.  While  it  is  a mistake  to  assume  that  the  mob  preys  only  on  Jews, 
the  Jews  must  be  accorded  first  place  among  its  favorite  victims. 

Excluded  as  it  is  from  society  and  political  representation,  the  mob  turns 
of  necessity  to  extraparliamentary  action.  Moreover,  it  is  inclined  to  seek 
the  real  forces  of  political  life  in  those  movements  and  influences  which  are 
hidden  from  view  and  work  behind  the  scenes.  There  can  be  no  doubt  that 
during  the  nineteenth  century  Jewry  fell  into  this  category,  as  did  Free- 
masonry (especially  in  Latin  countries)  and  the  Jesuits.64  It  is,  of  course, 
utterly  untrue  that  any  of  these  groups  really  constituted  a secret  society 
bent  on  dominating  the  world  by  means  of  a gigantic  conspiracy.  Neverthe- 
less, it  is  true  that  their  influence,  however  overt  it  may  have  been,  was 
exerted  beyond  the  formal  realm  of  politics,  operating  on  a large  scale  in 
lobbies,  lodges,  and  the  confessional.  Ever  since  the  French  Revolution  these 
three  groups  have  shared  the  doubtful  honor  of  being,  in  the  eyes  of  the 
European  mob,  the  pivotal  point  of  world  politics.  During  the  Dreyfus  crisis 
each  was  able  to  exploit  this  popular  notion  by  hurling  at  the  other  charges 
of  conspiring  to  world  domination.  The  slogan,  “secret  Judah,”  is  due,  no 
doubt,  to  the  inventiveness  of  certain  Jesuits,  who  chose  to  see  in  the  first 
Zionist  Congress  (1897)  the  core  of  a Jewish  world  conspiracy.65  Similarly, 
the  concept  of  “secret  Rome”  is  due  to  the  anticlerical  Freemasons  and  per- 
haps to  the  indiscriminate  slanders  of  some  Jews  as  well. 

The  fickleness  of  the  mob  is  proverbial,  as  the  opponents  of  Dreyfus  were 
to  learn  to  their  sorrow  when,  in  1899,  the  wind  changed  and  the  small 
group  of  true  republicans,  headed  by  Clemenceau,  suddenly  realized,  with 
mixed  feelings,  that  a section  of  the  mob  had  rallied  to  their  side.66  In  some 
eyes  the  two  parties  to  the  great  controversy  now  seemed  like  “two  rival 
gangs  of  charlatans  squabbling  for  recognition  by  the  rabble”  67  while  actually 
the  voice  of  the  Jacobin  Clemenceau  had  succeeded  in  bringing  back  one 
part  of  the  French  people  to  their  greatest  tradition.  Thus  the  great  scholar, 
Emile  Duclaux,  could  write:  “In  this  drama  played  before  a whole  people 

64  A study  of  European  superstition  would  probably  show  that  Jews  became  objects 
of  this  typically  nineteenth-century  brand  of  superstition  fairly  late.  They  were  preceded 
by  the  Rosicrucians,  Templars,  Jesuits,  and  Freemasons.  The  treatment  of  nineteenth- 
century  history  suffers  greatly  from  the  lack  of  such  a study. 

65  See  “11  caso  Dreyfus,”  in  Civiltd  Cattolica  (February  5,  1898). — Among  the 
exceptions  to  the  foregoing  statement  the  most  notable  is  the  Jesuit  Pierre  Charles 
Louvain,  who  has  denounced  the  “Protocols.” 

66  Cf.  Martin  du  Gard,  Jean  Barois,  pp.  272  ff.,  and  Daniel  Halevy,  in  Cahiers  de 
la  quinzaine,  Series  XI,  cahier  10,  Paris,  1910. 

67  Cf.  Georges  Sorel,  La  Revolution  dreyfusienne,  Paris,  1911,  pp.  70-71. 



and  so  worked  up  by  the  press  that  the  whole  nation  ultimately  took  part 
in  it,  we  see  the  chorus  and  anti-chorus  of  the  ancient  tragedy  railing  at  each 
other.  The  scene  is  France  and  the  theater  is  the  world.” 

Led  by  the  Jesuits  and  aided  by  the  mob  the  army  at  last  stepped  into 
the  fray  confident  of  victory.  Counterattack  from  the  civil  power  had  been 
effectively  forestalled.  The  antisemitic  press  had  stopped  men’s  mouths  by 
publishing  Reinach’s  lists  of  the  deputies  involved  in  the  Panama  scandal.68 
Everything  suggested  an  effortless  triumph.  The  society  and  the  politicians 
of  the  Third  Republic,  its  scandals  and  affairs,  had  created  a new  class  of 
declasses ; they  could  not  be  expected  to  fight  against  their  own  product;  on 
the  contrary,  they  were  to  adopt  the  language  and  outlook  of  the  mob. 
Through  the  army  the  Jesuits  would  gain  the  upper  hand  over  the  corrupt 
civil  power  and  the  way  would  thus  be  paved  for  a bloodless  coup  d'etat. 

So  long  as  there  was  only  the  Dreyfus  family  trying  with  bizarre  methods 
to  rescue  their  kinsman  from  Devil’s  Island,  and  so  long  as  there  were  only 
Jews  concerned  about  their  standing  in  the  antisemitic  salons  and  the  still 
more  antisemitic  army,  everything  certainly  pointed  that  way.  Obviously 
there  was  no  reason  to  expect  an  attack  on  the  army  or  on  society  from  that 
quarter.  Was  not  the  sole  desire  of  the  Jews  to  continue  to  be  accepted  in 
society  and  suffered  in  the  armed  forces?  No  one  in  military  or  civilian 
circles  needed  to  suffer  a sleepless  night  on  their  account.69  It  was  discon- 
certing, therefore,  when  it  transpired  that  in  the  intelligence  office  of  the 
General  Staff  there  sat  a high  officer,  who,  though  possessed  of  a good 
Catholic  background,  excellent  military  prospects,  and  the  “proper”  degree 
of  antipathy  toward  the  Jews,  had  yet  not  adopted  the  principle  that  the  end 
justifies  the  means.  Such  a man,  utterly  divorced  from  social  clannishness 
or  professional  ambition,  was  Picquard,  and  of  this  simple,  quiet,  politically 
disinterested  spirit  the  General  Staff  was  soon  to  have  its  fill.  Picquard  was 
no  hero  and  certainly  no  martyr.  He  was  simply  that  common  type  of  citizen 
with  an  average  interest  in  public  affairs  who  in  the  hour  of  danger  (though 
not  a minute  earlier)  stands  up  to  defend  his  country  in  the  same  unques- 
tioning way  as  he  discharges  his  daily  duties.70  Nevertheless,  the  cause  only 

68  To  what  extent  the  hands  of  members  of  Parliament  were  tied  is  shown  by  the 
case  of  Scheurer-Kestner,  one  of  their  better  elements  and  vice-president  of  the  senate. 
No  sooner  had  he  entered  his  protest  against  the  trial  than  Libre  Parole  proclaimed 
the  fact  that  his  son-in-law  had  been  involved  in  the  Panama  scandal.  See  Herzog, 
op.  cit.,  under  date  of  November,  1897. 

69  Cf.  Brogan,  op.  cit.,  Book  VII,  ch.  1 : “The  desire  to  let  the  matter  rest  was  not 
uncommon  among  French  Jews,  especially  among  the  richer  French  Jews.” 

70  Immediately  after  he  had  made  his  discoveries  Picquard  was  banished  to  a dan- 
gerous post  in  Tunis.  Thereupon  he  made  his  will,  exposed  the  whole  business,  and 
deposited  a copy  of  the  document  with  his  lawyer.  A few  months  later,  when  it  was 
discovered  that  he  was  still  alive,  a deluge  of  mysterious  letters  came  pouring  in, 
compromising  him  and  accusing  him  of  complicity  with  the  “traitor”  Dreyfus.  He  was 
treated  like  a gangster  who  had  threatened  to  “squeal.”  When  all  this  proved  of  no 
avail,  he  was  arrested,  drummed  out  of  the  army,  and  divested  of  his  decorations,  all 
of  which  he  endured  with  quiet  equanimity. 



grew  serious  when,  after  several  delays  and  hesitations,  Clemenceau  at  last 
became  convinced  that  Dreyfus  was  innocent  and  the  republic  in  danger. 
At  the  beginning  of  the  struggle  only  a handful  of  well-known  writers  and 
scholars  rallied  to  the  cause,  Zola,  Anatole  France,  E.  Duclaux,  Gabriel 
Monod,  the  historian,  and  Lucien  Herr,  librarian  of  the  Ecole  Normale.  To 
these  must  be  added  the  small  and  then  insignificant  circle  of  young  intel- 
lectuals who  were  later  to  make  history  in  the  Cahiers  de  la  quinzaine71 
That,  however,  was  the  full  roster  of  Clemcnceau’s  allies.  There  was  no 
political  group,  not  a single  politician  of  repute,  ready  to  stand  at  his  side. 
The  greatness  of  Clemenceau’s  approach  lies  in  the  fact  that  it  was  not 
directed  against  a particular  miscarriage  of  justice,  but  was  based  upon  such 
“abstract”  ideas  as  justice,  liberty,  and  civic  virtue.  It  was  based,  in  short, 
on  those  very  concepts  which  had  formed  the  staple  of  old-time  Jacobin 
patriotism  and  against  which  much  mud  and  abuse  had  already  been  hurled. 
As  time  wore  on  and  Clemenceau  continued,  unmoved  by  threats  and  dis- 
appointments, to  enunciate  the  same  truths  and  to  embody  them  in  demands, 
the  more  “concrete”  nationalists  lost  ground.  Followers  of  men  like  Barres, 
who  had  accused  the  supporters  of  Dreyfus  of  losing  themselves  in  a “welter 
of  metaphysics,”  came  to  realize  that  the  abstractions  of  the  “Tiger”  were 
actually  nearer  to  political  realities  than  the  limited  intelligence  of  ruined 
businessmen  or  the  barren  traditionalism  of  fatalistic  intellectuals.72  Where 
the  concrete  approach  of  the  realistic  nationalists  eventually  led  them  is 
illustrated  by  the  priceless  story  of  how  Charles  Maurras  had  “the  honor 
and  pleasure,”  after  the  defeat  of  France,  of  falling  in  during  his  flight  to 
the  south  with  a female  astrologer  who  interpreted  to  him  the  political  mean- 
ing of  recent  events  and  advised  him  to  collaborate  with  the  Nazis.73 

Although  antisemitism  had  undoubtedly  gained  ground  during  the  three 
years  following  the  arrest  of  Dreyfus,  before  the  opening  of  Clemenceau’s 
campaign,  and  although  the  anti-Jewish  press  had  attained  a circulation 
comparable  to  that  of  the  chief  papers,  the  streets  had  remained  quiet.  It 
was  only  when  Clemenceau  began  his  articles  in  L’Aurore,  when  Zola  pub- 
lished his  J' Accuse,  and  when  the  Rennes  tribunal  set  off  the  dismal  suc- 
cession of  trials  and  retrials  that  the  mob  stirred  into  action.  Every  stroke  of 
the  Dreyfusards  (who  were  known  to  be  a small  minority)  was  followed 
by  a more  or  less  violent  disturbance  on  the  streets.74  The  organization  of 
the  mob  by  the  General  Staff  was  remarkable.  The  trail  leads  straight  from 

71  To  this  group,  led  by  Charles  Peguy,  belonged  the  youthful  Romain  Rolland, 
Suarez,  Georges  Sorcl,  Daniel  Halevy,  and  Bernard  Lazare. 

72  Cf.  M.  Barres,  Scenes  et  doctrines  du  nationalisme , Paris,  1899. 

73  See  Yves  Simon,  op.  cit.,  pp.  54-55. 

74  The  faculty  rooms  of  Rennes  University  were  wrecked  after  five  professors  had 
declared  themselves  in  favor  of  a retrial.  After  the  appearance  of  Zola's  first  article 
Royalist  students  demonstrated  outside  the  offices  of  Figaro , after  which  the  paper 
desisted  from  further  articles  of  the  same  type.  The  publisher  of  the  pro-Dreyfus 
La  Bataille  was  beaten  up  on  the  street.  The  judges  of  the  Court  of  Cassation,  which 
finally  set  aside  the  verdict  of  1894,  reported  unanimously  that  they  had  been  threat- 
ened with  “unlawful  assault.”  Examples  could  be  multiplied. 



the  army  to  the  Libre  Parole  which,  directly  or  indirectly,  through  its  articles 
or  the  personal  intervention  of  its  editors,  mobilized  students,  monarchists, 
adventurers,  and  plain  gangsters  and  pushed  them  into  the  streets.  If  Zola 
uttered  a word,  at  once  his  windows  were  stoned.  If  Scheurer-Kestner  wrote 
to  the  colonial  minister,  he  was  at  once  beaten  up  on  the  streets  while  the 
papers  made  scurrilous  attacks  on  his  private  life.  And  all  accounts  agree 
that  if  Zola,  when  once  charged,  had  been  acquitted  he  would  never  have 
left  the  courtroom  alive. 

The  cry,  “Death  to  the  Jews,”  swept  the  country.  In  Lyon,  Rennes, 
Nantes,  Tours,  Bordeaux,  Clermont-Ferrant,  and  Marseille — everywhere, 
in  fact — antisemitic  riots  broke  out  and  were  invariably  traceable  to  the 
same  source.  Popular  indignation  broke  out  everywhere  on  the  same  day 
and  at  precisely  the  same  hour.75  Under  the  leadership  of  Guerin  the  mob 
took  on  a military  complexion.  Antisemitic  shock  troops  appeared  on  the 
streets  and  made  certain  that  every  pro-Dreyfus  meeting  should  end  in  blood- 
shed. The  complicity  of  the  police  was  everywhere  patent.70 

The  most  modern  figure  on  the  side  of  the  Anti-Dreyfusards  was  probably 
Jules  Guerin.  Ruined  in  business,  he  had  begun  his  political  career  as  a police 
stool  pigeon,  and  acquired  that  flair  for  discipline  and  organization  which 
invariably  marks  the  underworld.  This  he  was  later  able  to  divert  into  political 
channels,  becoming  the  founder  and  head  of  the  Ligue  Antisemite.  In  him 
high  society  found  its  first  criminal  hero.  In  its  adulation  of  Guerin  bourgeois 
society  showed  clearly  that  in  its  code  of  morals  and  ethics  it  had  broken  for 
good  with  its  own  standards.  Behind  the  Ligue  stood  two  members  of  the 
aristocracy,  the  Duke  of  Orleans  and  the  Marquis  de  Mores.  The  latter  had 
lost  his  fortune  in  America  and  became  famous  for  organizing  the  butchers  of 
Paris  into  a manslaughtering  brigade. 

Most  eloquent  of  these  modern  tendencies  was  the  farcical  siege  of  the 
so-called  Fort  Chabrol.  It  was  here,  in  this  first  of  “Brown  Houses,”  that 
the  cream  of  the  Ligue  Antisemite  foregathered  when  the  police  decided  at 
last  to  arrest  their  leader.  The  installations  were  the  acme  of  technical  per- 
fection. “The  windows  were  protected  by  iron  shutters.  There  was  a system 
of  electric  bells  and  telephones  from  cellar  to  roof.  Five  yards  or  so  behind 
the  massive  entrance,  itself  always  kept  locked  and  bolted,  there  was  a tall 
grill  of  cast  iron.  On  the  right,  between  the  grill  and  the  main  entrance  was 
a small  door,  likewise  iron-plated,  behind  which  sentries,  handpicked  from 
the  butcher  legions,  mounted  guard  day  and  night.”  77  Max  Regis,  instigator 
of  the  Algerian  pogroms,  is  another  who  strikes  a modern  note.  It  was  this 
youthful  Regis  who  once  called  upon  a cheering  Paris  rabble  to  “water  the 

75  On  January  18,  1898,  antisemitic  demonstrations  took  place  at  Bordeaux,  Mar- 
seille, Clermont-Ferrant,  Nantes,  Rouen,  and  Lyon.  On  the  following  day  student 
riots  broke  out  in  Rouen,  Toulouse,  and  Nantes. 

76  The  crudest  instance  was  that  of  the  police  prefect  of  Rennes,  who  advised  Pro- 
fessor Victor  Basch,  when  the  latter’s  house  was  stormed  by  a mob  2,000  strong,  that 
he  ought  to  hand  in  his  resignation,  as  he  could  no  longer  guarantee  his  safety. 

77  Cf.  Bernanos,  op.  cit.,  p.  346. 



tree  of  freedom  with  the  blood  of  the  Jews.”  R6gis  represented  that  section 
of  the  movement  which  hoped  to  achieve  power  by  legal  and  parliamentary 
methods.  In  accordance  with  this  program  he  had  himself  elected  mayor  of 
Alters  and  utilized  his  office  to  unleash  the  pogroms  in  which  several  Jews 
were  killed,  Jewish  women  criminally  assaulted  and  Jewish-owned  stores 
looted.  It  was  to  him  also  that  the  polished  and  cultured  Edouard  Drumont, 
that  most  famous  French  antisemite,  owed  his  seat  in  Parliament. 

What  was  new  in  all  this  was  not  the  activity  of  the  mob;  for  that  there 
were  abundant  precedents.  What  was  new  and  surprising  at  the  time — though 
all  too  familiar  to  us — was  the  organization  of  the  mob  and  the  hero-worship 
enjoyed  by  its  leaders.  The  mob  became  the  direct  agent  of  that  “concrete” 
nationalism  espoused  by  Barres,  Maurras,  and  Daudet,  who  together  formed 
what  was  undoubtedly  a kind  of  elite  of  the  younger  intellectuals.  These  men, 
who  despised  the  people  and  who  had  themselves  but  recently  emerged  from 
a ruinous  and  decadent  cult  of  estheticism,  saw  in  the  mob  a living  expression 
of  virile  and  primitive  “strength.”  It  was  they  and  their  theories  which  first 
identified  the  mob  with  the  people  and  converted  its  leaders  into  national 
heroes.78  It  was  their  philosophy  of  pessimism  and  their  delight  in  doom  that 
was  the  first  sign  of  the  imminent  collapse  of  the  European  intelligentsia. 

Even  Clemenceau  was  not  immune  from  the  temptation  to  identify  the 
mob  with  the  people.  What  made  him  especially  prone  to  this  error  was 
the  consistently  ambiguous  attitude  of  the  Labor  party  toward  the  ques- 
tion of  “abstract”  justice.  No  party,  including  the  socialists,  was  ready  to 
make  an  issue  of  justice  per  se,  “to  stand,  come  what  may,  for  justice,  the 
sole  unbreakable  bond  of  union  between  civilized  men.”  79  The  socialists 
stood  for  the  interests  of  the  workers,  the  opportunists  for  those  of  the  liberal 
bourgeoisie,  the  coalitionists  for  those  of  the  Catholic  higher  classes,  and 
the  radicals  for  those  of  the  anticlerical  petty  bourgeoisie.  The  socialists  had 
the  great  advantage  of  speaking  in  the  name  of  a homogeneous  and  united 
class.  Unlike  the  bourgeois  parties  they  did  not  represent  a society  which 
had  split  into  innumerable  cliques  and  cabals.  Nevertheless,  they  were  con- 
cerned primarily  and  essentially  with  the  interests  of  their  class.  They  were 
not  troubled  by  any  higher  obligation  toward  human  solidarity  and  had  no 
conception  of  what  communal  life  really  meant.  Typical  of  their  attitude 
was  the  observation  of  Jules  Guesde,  the  counterpart  of  Jaures  in  the  French 
party,  that  “law  and  honor  are  mere  words.” 

The  nihilism  which  characterized  the  nationalists  was  no  monopoly  of 
the  Anti-Dreyfusards.  On  the  contrary,  a large  proportion  of  the  socialists 
and  many  of  those  who  championed  Dreyfus,  like  Guesde,  spoke  the  same 
language.  If  the  Catholic  La  Croix  remarked  that  “it  is  no  longer  a question 
whether  Dreyfus  is  innocent  or  guilty  but  only  of  who  will  win,  the  friends 
of  the  army  or  its  foes,”  the  corresponding  sentiment  might  well  have  been 

78  For  these  theories  see  especially  Charles  Maurras,  Au  Signe  de  Flore;  souvenirs 
de  la  vie  politique;  1’ Affaire  Dreyfus  et  la  jondation  de  l’ Action  Frangaise,  Paris,  1931; 
M.  Barres,  op.  cit.;  Leon  Daudet,  Panorama  de  la  Troisieme  Republique,  Paris,  1936. 

79  Cf.  Clemenceau,  “A  la  derive,”  in  op.  cit. 



voiced,  mutatis  mutandis , by  the  partisans  of  Dreyfus.80  Not  only  the  mob 
but  a considerable  section  of  the  French  people  declared  itself,  at  best,  quite 
uninterested  in  whether  one  group  of  the  population  was  or  was  not  to  be 
excluded  from  the  law. 

As  soon  as  the  mob  began  its  campaign  of  terror  against  the  partisans  of 
Dreyfus,  it  found  the  path  open  before  it.  As  Clemenceau  attests,  the  workers 
of  Paris  cared  little  for  the  whole  affair.  If  the  various  elements  of  the  bour- 
geoisie squabbled  among  themselves,  that,  they  thought,  scarcely  affected 
their  own  interests.  “With  the  open  consent  of  the  people,”  wrote  Clemen- 
ceau, “they  have  proclaimed  before  the  world  the  failure  of  their  ‘democracy.’ 
Through  them  a sovereign  people  shows  itself  thrust  from  its  throne  of 
justice,  shorn  of  its  infallible  majesty.  For  there  is  no  denying  that  this  evil 
has  befallen  us  with  the  full  complicity  of  the  people  itself.  . . . The  people 
is  not  God.  Anyone  could  have  foreseen  that  this  new  divinity  would  some 
day  topple  to  his  fall.  A collective  tyrant,  spread  over  the  length  and  breadth 
of  the  land,  is  no  more  acceptable  than  a single  tyrant  ensconced  upon  his 
throne.”  81 

At  last  Clemenceau  convinced  Jaures  that  an  infringement  of  the  rights 
of  one  man  was  an  infringement  of  the  rights  of  all.  But  in  this  he  was  suc- 
cessful only  because  the  wrongdoers  happened  to  be  the  inveterate  enemies 
of  the  people  ever  since  the  Revolution,  namely,  the  aristocracy  and  the 
clergy.  It  was  against  the  rich  and  the  clergy,  not  for  the  republic,  not  for 
justice  and  freedom  that  the  workers  finally  took  to  the  streets.  True,  both 
the  speeches  of  Jaures  and  the  articles  of  Clemenceau  are  redolent  of  the 
old  revolutionary  passion  for  human  rights.  True,  also,  that  this  passion 
was  strong  enough  to  rally  the  people  to  the  struggle,  but  first  they  had  to 
be  convinced  that  not  only  justice  and  the  honor  of  the  republic  were  at  stake 
but  also  their  own  class  “interests.”  As  it  was,  a large  number  of  socialists, 
both  inside  and  outside  the  country,  still  regarded  it  as  a mistake  to  meddle 
(as  they  put  it)  in  the  internecine  quarrels  of  the  bourgeoisie  or  to  bother 
about  saving  the  republic. 

The  first  to  wean  the  workers,  at  least  partially,  from  this  mood  of  in- 
difference was  that  great  lover  of  the  people,  Emile  Zola.  In  his  famous  in- 
dictment of  the  republic  he  was  also,  however,  the  first  to  deflect  from  the 
presentation  of  precise  political  facts  and  to  yield  to  the  passions  of  the  mob 
by  raising  the  bogy  of  “secret  Rome.”  This  was  a note  which  Clemenceau 
adopted  only  reluctantly,  though  Jaures  did  with  enthusiasm.  The  real 
achievement  of  Zola,  which  is  hard  to  detect  from  his  pamphlets,  consists 
in  the  resolute  and  dauntless  courage  with  which  this  man,  whose  life  and 
works  had  exalted  the  people  to  a point  “bordering  on  idolatry,”  stood  up 
to  challenge,  combat,  and  finally  conquer  the  masses,  in  whom,  like  Clemen- 

80  It  was  precisely  this  which  so  greatly  disillusioned  the  champions  of  Dreyfus, 
especially  the  circle  around  Charles  Peguy.  This  disturbing  similarity  between  Drey- 
fusards  and  Anti-Dreyfusards  is  the  subject  matter  of  the  instructive  novel  by  Martin 
du  Gard,  Jean  Barois,  1913. 

81  Preface  to  Contre  la  Justice , 1900. 



ccau,  he  could  all  the  time  scarcely  distinguish  the  mob  from  the  people. 
“Men  have  been  found  to  resist  the  most  powerful  monarchs  and  to  refuse 
to  bow  down  before  them,  but  few  indeed  have  been  found  to  resist  the 
crowd,  to  stand  up  alone  before  misguided  masses,  to  face  their  implacable 
frenzy  without  weapons  and  with  folded  arms  to  dare  a no  when  a yes  is 
demanded.  Such  a man  was  Zola!”  82 

Scarcely  had  J* Accuse  appeared  when  the  Paris  socialists  held  their  first 
meeting  and  passed  a resolution  calling  for  a revision  of  the  Dreyfus  case. 
But  only  live  days  later  some  thirty-two  socialist  ofTicials  promptly  came  out 
with  a declaration  that  the  fate  of  Dreyfus,  “the  class  enemy,”  was  no  con- 
cern of  theirs.  Behind  this  declaration  stood  large  elements  of  the  party  in 
Paris.  Although  a split  in  its  ranks  continued  throughout  the  Affair,  the 
parly  numbered  enough  Dreyfusards  to  prevent  the  Ligue  Antisemite  from 
thenceforth  controlling  the  streets.  A socialist  meeting  even  branded  anti- 
semitism “a  new  form  of  reaction.”  Yet  a few  months  later  when  the  parlia- 
mentary elections  took  place,  Jaures  was  not  returned,  and  shortly  after- 
wards, when  Cavaignac,  the  minister  of  war,  treated  the  Chamber  to  a speech 
attacking  Dreyfus  and  commending  the  army  as  indispensable,  the  delegates 
resolved,  with  only  two  dissenting  votes,  to  placard  the  walls  of  Paris  with 
the  text  of  that  address.  Similarly,  when  the  great  Paris  strike  broke  out  in 
October  of  the  same  year,  Munster,  the  German  ambassador,  was  able  re- 
liably and  confidentially  to  inform  Berlin  that  “as  far  as  the  broad  masses 
are  concerned,  this  is  in  no  sense  a political  issue.  The  workers  are  simply 
out  for  higher  wages  and  these  they  are  bound  to  get  in  the  end.  As  for  the 
Dreyfus  case,  they  have  never  bothered  their  heads  about  it.”  83 

Who  then,  in  broad  terms,  were  the  supporters  of  Dreyfus?  Who  were  the 
300,000  Frenchmen  who  so  eagerly  devoured  Zola’s  J* Accuse  and  who  fol- 
lowed religiously  the  editorials  of  Clemenceau?  Who  were  the  men  who 
finally  succeeded  in  splitting  every  class,  even  every  family,  in  France  into 
opposing  factions  over  the  Dreyfus  issue?  The  answer  is  that  they  formed 
no  party  or  homogeneous  group.  Admittedly  they  were  recruited  more  from 
the  lower  than  from  the  upper  classes,  as  they  comprised,  characteristically 
enough,  more  physicians  than  lawyers  or  civil  servants.  By  and  large,  how- 
ever, they  were  a mixture  of  diverse  elements:  men  as  far  apart  as  Zola  and 
Peguy  or  Jaures  and  Picquard,  men  who  on  the  morrow  would  part  com- 
pany and  go  their  several  ways.  “They  come  from  political  parties  and 
religious  communities  who  have  nothing  in  common,  who  are  even  in  con- 
flict with  each  other.  . . . Those  men  do  not  know  each  other.  They  have 
fought  and  on  occasion  will  fight  again.  Do  not  deceive  yourselves;  those 
are  the  ‘elite’  of  the  French  democracy.”  81 

Had  Clemenceau  possessed  enough  self-confidence  at  that  time  to  consider 
only  those  who  heeded  him  the  true  people  of  France,  he  would  not  have 

Clemenceau,  in  a speech  before  the  Senate  several  years  later;  cf.  Weil,  op.  cit., 
pp.  1 12-13. 

83  See  Herzog,  op.  cit.,  under  date  of  October  10,  1898. 

84  “K.V.T.,”  op.  cit.,  p.  608. 



fallen  prey  to  that  fatal  pride  which  marked  the  rest  of  his  career.  Out  of 
his  experiences  in  the  Dreyfus  Affair  grew  his  despair  of  the  people,  his  con- 
tempt for  men,  finally  his  belief  that  he  and  he  alone  would  be  able  to  save 
the  republic.  He  could  never  stoop  to  play  the  claque  to  the  antics  of  the 
mob.  Therefore,  once  he  began  to  identify  the  mob  with  the  people,  he 
did  indeed  cut  the  ground  from  under  his  feet,  and  forced  himself  into  that 
grim  aloofness  which  thereafter  distinguished  him. 

The  disunity  of  the  French  people  was  apparent  in  each  family.  Char- 
acteristically enough,  it  found  political  expression  only  in  the  ranks  of  the 
Labor  party.  All  others,  as  well  as  all  parliamentary  groups,  were  solidly 
against  Dreyfus  at  the  beginning  of  the  campaign  for  a retrial.  All  this 
means,  however,  is  that  the  bourgeois  parties  no  longer  represented  the  true 
feelings  of  the  electorate,  for  the  same  disunity  that  was  so  patent  among  the 
socialists  obtained  among  almost  all  sections  of  the  populace.  Everywhere  a 
minority  existed  which  took  up  Clemenccau’s  plea  for  justice,  and  this 
heterogeneous  minority  made  up  the  Dreyfusards.  Their  fight  against  the 
army  and  the  corrupt  complicity  of  the  republic  which  backed  it  was  the 
dominating  factor  in  French  internal  politics  from  the  end  of  1897  until 
the  opening  of  the  Exposition  in  1900.  It  also  exerted  an  appreciable  in- 
fluence on  the  nation’s  foreign  policy.  Nevertheless,  this  entire  struggle,  which 
was  to  result  eventually  in  at  least  a partial  triumph,  took  place  exclusively 
outside  of  Parliament.  In  that  so-called  representative  assembly,  comprising 
as  it  did  a full  600  delegates  drawn  from  every  shade  and  color  both  of 
labor  and  of  the  bourgeoisie,  there  were  in  1898  but  two  supporters  of 
Dreyfus  and  one  of  them,  Jaurcs,  was  not  re-elected. 

The  disturbing  thing  about  the  Dreyfus  Affair  is  that  it  was  not  only  the 
mob  which  had  to  work  along  extraparliamentary  lines.  The  entire  minority, 
fighting  as  it  was  for  Parliament,  democracy,  and  the  republic,  was  likewise 
constrained  to  wage  its  battle  outside  the  Chamber.  The  only  difference 
between  the  two  elements  was  that  while  the  one  used  the  streets,  the  other 
resorted  to  the  press  and  the  courts.  In  other  words,  the  whole  of  France’s 
political  life  during  the  Dreyfus  crisis  was  carried  on  outside  Parliament. 
Nor  do  the  several  parliamentary  votes  in  favor  of  the  army  and  against  a 
retrial  in  any  way  invalidate  this  conclusion.  It  is  significant  to  remember 
that  when  parliamentary  feeling  began  to  turn,  shortly  before  the  opening 
of  the  Paris  Exposition,  Minister  of  War  Gallifet  was  able  to  declare  truth- 
fully that  this  in  no  wise  represented  the  mood  of  the  country.85  On  the  other 
hand  the  vote  against  a retrial  must  not  be  construed  as  an  endorsement  of 
the  coup  d'etat  policy  which  the  Jesuits  and  certain  radical  antisemites  were 
trying  to  introduce  with  the  help  of  the  army.86  It  was  due,  rather,  to  plain 

85  Gallifet,  minister  of  war,  wrote  to  Waldeck:  "Let  us  not  forget  that  the  great 
majority  of  people  in  France  are  antisemitic.  Our  position  would  be,  therefore,  that  on 
the  one  side  we  would  have  the  entire  army  and  the  majority  of  Frenchmen,  not  to 
speak  of  the  civil  service  and  the  senators;  . . .”  cf.  J.  Reinach,  op.  cit.,  V,  579. 

86  The  best  known  of  such  attempts  is  that  of  Deroulede  who  sought,  while  attending 
the  funeral  of  President  Paul  Faure,  in  February,  1899,  to  incite  General  Roget  to 



resistance  against  any  change  in  the  status  quo.  As  a matter  of  fact,  an  equally 
overwhelming  majority  of  the  Chamber  would  have  rejected  a military- 
clerical  dictatorship. 

Those  members  of  Parliament  who  had  learned  to  regard  politics  as  the 
professional  representation  of  vested  interests  were  naturally  anxious  to 
preserve  that  state  of  affairs  upon  which  their  “calling”  and  their  profits  de- 
pended. The  Dreyfus  case  revealed,  moreover,  that  the  people  likewise 
wanted  their  representatives  to  look  after  their  own  special  interests  rather 
than  to  function  as  statesmen.  It  was  distinctly  unwise  to  mention  the  case  in 
election  propaganda.  Had  this  been  due  solely  to  antisemitism  the  situation 
of  the  Dreyfusards  would  certainly  have  been  hopeless.  In  point  of  fact, 
during  the  elections  they  already  enjoyed  considerable  support  among  the 
working  class.  Nevertheless  even  those  who  sided  with  Dreyfus  did  not  care 
to  sec  this  political  question  dragged  into  the  elections.  It  was,  indeed,  be- 
cause he  insisted  on  making  it  the  pivot  of  his  campaign  that  Jaures  lost 
his  seat. 

If  Clemenceau  and  the  Dreyfusards  succeeded  in  winning  over  large 
sections  of  all  classes  to  the  demand  of  a retrial,  the  Catholics  reacted  as  a 
bloc;  among  them  there  was  no  divergence  of  opinion.  What  the  Jesuits  did 
in  steering  the  aristocracy  and  the  General  Staff,  was  done  for  the  middle 
and  lower  classes  by  the  Assumptionists,  whose  organ,  La  Croix,  enjoyed 
the  largest  circulation  of  all  Catholic  journals  in  France.87  Both  centered 
their  agitation  against  the  republic  around  the  Jews.  Both  represented  them- 
selves as  defenders  of  the  army  and  the  commonweal  against  the  machina- 
tions of  “international  Jewry.”  More  striking,  however,  than  the  attitude  of 
the  Catholics  in  France  was  the  fact  that  the  Catholic  press  throughout  the 
world  was  solidly  against  Dreyfus.  “All  these  journalists  marched  and  are 
still  marching  at  the  word  of  command  of  their  superiors.”  88  As  the  case 
progressed,  it  became  increasingly  clear  that  the  agitation  against  the  Jews 
in  France  followed  an  international  line.  Thus  the  Civilta  Cattolica  declared 
that  Jews  must  be  excluded  from  the  nation  everywhere,  in  France,  Germany, 
Austria,  and  Italy.  Catholic  politicians  were  among  the  first  to  realize  that 
latter-day  power  politics  must  be  based  on  the  interplay  of  colonial  ambi- 
tions. They  were  therefore  the  first  to  link  antisemitism  to  imperialism,  de- 
claring that  the  Jews  were  agents  of  England  and  thereby  identifying 
antagonism  toward  them  with  Anglophobia.89  The  Dreyfus  case,  in  which 

mutiny.  The  German  ambassadors  and  charges  d’affaires  in  Paris  reported  such  at- 
tempts every  few  months.  The  situation  is  well  summed  up  by  Barres,  op.  cit.,  p.  4: 
“In  Rennes  we  have  found  our  battlefield.  All  we  need  is  soldiers  or,  more  precisely, 
generals — or,  still  more  precisely,  a general.”  Only  it  was  no  accident  that  this  general 
was  non-existent. 

87  Brogan  goes  so  far  as  to  blame  the  Assumptionists  for  the  entire  clerical  agitation. 

88  "K.V.T.,”  op.  cit.,  p.  597. 

8®  “The  initial  stimulus  in  the  Affair  very  probably  came  from  London,  where  the 
Congo-Nile  mission  of  1896-1898  was  causing  some  degree  of  disquietude”;  thus 
Maurras  in  Action  Frangalse  (July  14,  1935).  The  Catholic  press  of  London  defended 
the  Jesuits;  see  “The  Jesuits  and  the  Dreyfus  Case,”  in  The  Month,  Vol.  XVIII  (1899). 



Jews  were  the  central  figures,  thus  afforded  them  a welcome  opportunity  to 
play  their  game.  If  England  had  taken  Egypt  from  the  French  the  Jews  were 
to  blame,90  while  the  movement  for  an  Anglo-American  alliance  was  due, 
of  course,  to  “Rothschild  imperialism.”  91  That  the  Catholic  game  was  not 
confined  to  France  became  abundantly  clear  once  the  curtain  was  rung  down 
on  that  particular  scene.  At  the  close  of  1899,  when  Dreyfus  had  been  par- 
doned and  when  French  public  opinion  had  turned  round  through  fear  of  a 
projected  boycott  of  the  Exposition,  only  an  interview  with  Pope  Leo  XIII 
was  needed  to  stop  the  spread  of  antisemitism  throughout  the  world.92  Even 
in  the  United  States,  where  championship  of  Dreyfus  was  particularly  en- 
thusiastic among  the  non-Catholics,  it  was  possible  to  detect  in  the  Catholic 
press  after  1897  a marked  resurgence  of  antisemitic  feeling  which,  however, 
subsided  overnight  following  the  interview  with  Leo  XIII.93  The  “grand 
strategy”  of  using  antisemitism  as  an  instrument  of  Catholicism  had  proved 

v:  The  Jews  and  the  Dreyfusards 

the  case  of  the  unfortunate  Captain  Dreyfus  had  shown  the  world  that  in 
every  Jewish  nobleman  and  multimillionaire  there  still  remained  something 
of  the  old-time  pariah,  who  has  no  country,  for  whom  human  rights  do  not 
exist,  and  whom  society  would  gladly  exclude  from  its  privileges.  No  one, 
however,  found  it  more  difficult  to  grasp  this  fact  than  the  emancipated  Jews 
themselves.  “It  isn’t  enough  for  them,”  wrote  Bernard  Lazare,  “to  reject  any 
solidarity  with  their  foreign-born  brethren;  they  have  also  to  go  charging 
them  with  all  the  evils  which  their  own  cowardice  engenders.  They  are  not 
content  with  being  more  jingoist  than  the  native  Frenchmen;  like  all  emanci- 
pated Jews  everywhere,  they  have  also  of  their  own  volition  broken  all  ties 
of  solidarity.  Indeed,  they  go  so  far  that  for  the  three  dozen  or  so  men  in 
France  who  are  ready  to  defend  one  of  their  martyred  brethren  you  can  find 
some  thousands  ready  to  stand  guard  over  Devil’s  Island,  alongside  the 
most  rabid  patriots  of  the  country.”  94  Precisely  because  they  had  played  so 
small  a part  in  the  political  development  of  the  lands  in  which  they  lived, 
they  had  come,  during  the  course  of  the  century,  to  make  a fetish  of  legal 
equality.  To  them  it  was  the  unquestionable  basis  of  eternal  security.  When 
the  Dreyfus  Affair  broke  out  to  warn  them  that  their  security  was  menaced, 
they  were  deep  in  the  process  of  a disintegrating  assimilation,  through  which 

90  Civiltd  Cattolicdy  February  5,  1898. 

91  See  the  particularly  characteristic  article  of  Rev.  George  McDermot,  C.S.P.,  “Mr. 
Chamberlain’s  Foreign  Policy  and  the  Dreyfus  Case,”  in  the  American  monthly 
Catholic  World , Vol.  LXVII  (September,  1898). 

92  Cf.  Lecanuet,  op.  ci7.,  p.  188. 

93  Cf.  Rose  A.  Halperin,  op.  cit.,  pp.  59,  77  ff. 

94  Bernard  Lazare,  Job’s  Dungheap , New  York,  1948,  p.  97. 


their  lack  of  political  wisdom  was  intensified  rather  than  otherwise.  They 
were  rapidly  assimilating  themselves  to  those  elements  of  society  in  which 
all  political  passions  are  smothered  beneath  the  dead  weight  of  social  snob- 
bery. big  business,  and  hitherto  unknown  opportunities  for  profit.  They 
hoped  to  get  rid  of  the  antipathy  which  this  tendency  had  called  forth  by 
diverting  it  against  their  poor  and  as  yet  unassimilated  immigrant  brethren. 
Using  the  same  tactics  as  Gentile  society  had  employed  against  them  they 
took  pains  to  dissociate  themselves  from  the  so-called  Ostjuden.  Political 
antisemitism,  as  it  had  manifested  itself  in  the  pogroms  of  Russia  and 
Rumania,  they  dismissed  airily  as  a survival  from  the  Middle  Ages,  scarcely 
a reality  of  modern  politics.  They  could  never  understand  that  more  was  at 
stake  in  the  Dreyfus  Affair  than  mere  social  status,  if  only  because  more  than 
mere  social  antisemitism  had  been  brought  to  bear. 

These  then  are  the  reasons  why  so  few  wholehearted  supporters  of  Dreyfus 
were  to  be  found  in  the  ranks  of  French  Jewry.  The  Jews,  including  the  very 
family  of  the  accused,  shrank  from  starting  a political  fight.  On  just  these 
grounds,  Labori,  counsel  for  Zola,  was  refused  the  defense  before  the 
Rennes  tribunal,  while  Dreyfus’  second  lawyer,  Demange,  was  constrained 
to  base  his  plea  on  the  issue  of  doubt.  It  was  hoped  thereby  to  smother  under 
a deluge  of  compliments  any  possible  attack  from  the  army  or  its  officers. 
The  idea  was  that  the  royal  road  to  an  acquittal  was  to  pretend  that  the 
whole  thing  boiled  down  to  the  possibility  of  a judicial  error,  the  victim  of 
which  just  happened  by  chance  to  be  a Jew.  The  result  was  a second  verdict 
and  Dreyfus,  refusing  to  face  the  true  issue,  was  induced  to  renounce  a 
retrial  and  instead  to  petition  for  clemency,  that  is,  to  plead  guilty.1*5  The 
Jews  failed  to  see  that  what  was  involved  was  an  organized  fight  against 
them  on  a political  front.  They  therefore  resisted  the  co-operation  of  men 
who  were  prepared  to  meet  the  challenge  on  this  basis.  How  blind  their  atti- 
tude was  is  shown  clearly  by  the  case  of  Clemenceau.  Clemcnceau’s  struggle 
for  justice  as  the  foundation  of  the  state  certainly  embraced  the  restoration 
of  equal  rights  to  the  Jews.  In  an  age,  however,  of  class  struggle  on  the  one 
hand  and  rampant  jingoism  on  the  other,  it  would  have  remained  a political 
abstraction  had  it  not  been  conceived,  at  the  same  time,  in  actual  terms  of 
the  oppressed  fighting  their  oppressors.  Clemenceau  was  one  of  the  few 
true  friends  modern  Jewry  has  known  just  because  he  recognized  and  pro- 
claimed before  the  world  that  Jews  were  one  of  the  oppressed  peoples  of 
Europe.  The  antisemite  tends  to  sec  in  the  Jewish  parvenu  an  upstart  pariah; 
consequently  in  every  huckster  he  fears  a Rothschild  and  in  every  shnorrer 
a parvenu.  But  Clemenceau,  in  his  consuming  passion  for  justice,  still  saw 
the  Rothschilds  as  members  of  a downtrodden  people.  His  anguish  over  the 

Cf.  Fernand  Labori,  “Le  mal  politique  et  les  partis,”  in  La  Grande  Revue 
(October-Decembcr,  1901):  “From  the  moment  at  Rennes  when  the  accused  pleaded 
guilty  and  the  defendant  renounced  recourse  to  a retrial  in  the  hope  of  gaining  a 
pardon,  the  Dreyfus  case  as  a great,  universal  human  issue  was  definitely  closed.”  In 
his  article  entil led  “Le  Spectacle  du  jour,”  Clemenceau  speaks  of  the  Jews  of  Algiers 
in  whose  behalf  Rothschild  will  not  voice  the  least  protest.” 



national  misfortune  of  France  opened  his  eyes  and  his  heart  even  to  those 
“unfortunates,  who  pose  as  leaders  of  their  people  and  promptly  leave  them 
in  the  lurch,”  to  those  cowed  and  subdued  elements  who,  in  their  ignorance, 
weakness  and  fear,  have  been  so  much  bedazzled  by  admiration  of  the 
stronger  as  to  exclude  them  from  partnership  in  any  active  struggle  and  who 
are  able  to  “rush  to  the  aid  of  the  winner”  only  when  the  battle  has  been 

Vi:  The  Pardon  and  Its  Significance 

that  the  Dreyfus  drama  was  a comedy  became  apparent  only  in  its  final 
act.  The  deus  ex  machina  who  united  the  disrupted  country,  turned  Parlia- 
ment in  favor  of  a retrial  and  eventually  reconciled  the  disparate  elements 
of  the  people  from  the  extreme  right  to  the  socialists,  was  nothing  other  than 
the  Paris  Exposition  of  1900.  What  Clemenceau’s  daily  editorials,  Zola’s 
pathos,  Jaures’  speeches,  and  the  popular  hatred  of  clergy  and  aristocracy 
had  failed  to  achieve,  namely,  a change  of  parliamentary  feeling  in  favor  of 
Dreyfus,  was  at  last  accomplished  by  the  fear  of  a boycott.  The  same  Parlia- 
ment that  a year  before  had  unanimously  rejected  a retrial,  now  by  a two- 
thirds  majority  passed  a vote  of  censure  on  an  anti-Dreyfus  government.  In 
July,  1899,  the  Waldeck-Rousseau  cabinet  came  to  power.  President  Loubct 
pardoned  Dreyfus  and  liquidated  the  entire  affair.  The  Exposition  was  able 
to  open  under  the  brightest  of  commercial  skies  and  general  fraternization 
ensued:  even  socialists  became  eligible  for  government  posts;  Millerand,  the 
first  socialist  minister  in  Europe,  received  the  portfolio  of  commerce. 

Parliament  became  the  champion  of  Dreyfus!  That  was  the  upshot.  For 
Clemenceau,  of  course,  it  was  a defeat.  To  the  bitter  end  he  denounced  the 
ambiguous  pardon  and  the  even  more  ambiguous  amnesty.  “All  it  has  done,” 
wrote  Zola,  “is  to  lump  together  in  a single  stinking  pardon  men  of  honor 
and  hoodlums.  All  have  been  thrown  into  one  pot.”  07  Clemenceau  remained, 
as  at  the  beginning,  utterly  alone.  The  socialists,  above  all,  Jaures,  welcomed 
both  pardon  and  amnesty.  Did  it  not  insure  them  a place  in  the  government 
and  a more  extensive  representation  of  their  special  interests?  A few  months 
later,  in  May,  1900,  when  the  success  of  the  Exposition  was  assured,  the 
real  truth  at  last  emerged.  All  these  appeasement  tactics  were  to  be  at  the 
expense  of  the  Dreyfusards.  The  motion  for  a further  retrial  was  defeated 
425  to  60,  and  not  even  Clemenceau’s  own  government  in  1906  could  change 
the  situation;  it  did  not  dare  to  entrust  the  retrial  to  a normal  court  of  law. 
The  (illegal)  acquittal  through  the  Court  of  Appeals  was  a compromise. 
But  defeat  for  Clemenceau  did  not  mean  victory  for  the  Church  and  the 

96  See  Clemenceau’s  articles  entitled  “Le  Spectacle  du  jour,”  “Et  Ies  Juifs!”  ‘‘La 
Farce  du  syndicat,”  and  “Encore  les  juifs!”  in  L’lniquite. 

97  Cf.  Zola’s  letter  dated  September  13,  1899,  in  Correspondance:  lettres  d Maitre 



army.  The  separation  of  Church  and  State  and  the  ban  on  parochial  educa- 
tion brought  to  an  end  the  political  influence  of  Catholicism  in  France. 
Similarly,  the  subjection  of  the  intelligence  service  to  the  ministry  of  war,  i.e„ 
to  the  civil  authority,  robbed  the  army  of  its  blackmailing  influence  on  cabinet 
and  Chamber  and  deprived  it  of  any  justification  for  conducting  police  in- 
quiries on  its  own  account. 

In  1909  Drumont  stood  for  the  Academy.  Once  his  antisemitism  had 
been  lauded  by  the  Catholics  and  acclaimed  by  the  people.  Now,  however, 
the  “greatest  historian  since  Fustel”  (Lemaitre)  was  obliged  to  yield  to 
Marcel  Prcvost,  author  of  the  somewhat  pornographic  Demi-Vierges , and 
the  new  “immortal”  received  the  congratulations  of  the  Jesuit  Father  Du 
Lac.08  Even  the  Society  of  Jesus  had  composed  its  quarrel  with  the  Third 
Republic.  The  close  of  the  Dreyfus  case  marked  the  end  of  clerical  anti- 
semitism. The  compromise  adopted  by  the  Third  Republic  cleared  the  de- 
fendant without  granting  him  a regular  trial,  while  it  restricted  the  activities 
of  Catholic  organizations.  Whereas  Bernard  Lazare  had  asked  equal  rights 
for  both  sides,  the  state  had  allowed  one  exception  for  the  Jews  and  another 
which  threatened  the  freedom  of  conscience  of  Catholics."  The  parties  which 
were  really  in  conflict  were  both  placed  outside  the  law,  with  the  result  that 
the  Jewish  question  on  the  one  hand  and  political  Catholicism  on  the  other 
were  banished  thenceforth  from  the  arena  of  practical  politics. 

Thus  closes  the  only  episode  in  which  the  subterranean  forces  of  the 
nineteenth  century  enter  the  full  light  of  recorded  history.  The  only  visible 
result  was  that  it  gave  birth  to  the  Zionist  movement — the  only  political 
answer  Jews  have  ever  found  to  antisemitism  and  the  only  ideology  in  which 
they  have  ever  taken  seriously  a hostility  that  would  place  them  in  the  center 
of  world  events. 

08  Cf.  Herzog,  op.  cit.,  p.  97. 

09  Lazare ’s  position  in  the  Dreyfus  Affair  is  best  described  by  Charles  Peguy,  “Notre 
Jcunesse,”  in  Cahiers  de  la  quinzaine , Paris,  1910.  Regarding  him  as  the  true  repre- 
sentative of  Jewish  interests,  Peguy  formulates  Lazare’s  demands  as  follows:  “He  was 
a partisan  of  the  impartiality  of  the  law.  Impartiality  of  law  in  the  Dreyfus  case,  im- 
partial law  in  the  case  of  the  religious  orders.  This  seems  like  a trifle;  this  can  lead 
far.  This  led  him  to  isolation  in  death.”  (Translation  quoted  from  Introduction  to 
Lazare’s  Job's  Dungheap.)  Lazare  was  one  of  the  first  Dreyfusards  to  protest  against 
the  law  governing  congregations. 



I would  annex  the  planets  if  / could . 


chapter  five:  The  Political  Emancipation 
of  the  Bourgeoisie 

The  three  decades  from  1884  to  1914  separate  the  nineteenth  century, 
which  ended  with  the  scramble  for  Africa  and  the  birth  of  the  pan- 
movements, from  the  twentieth,  which  began  with  the  first  World  War.  This 
is  the  period  of  Imperialism,  with  its  stagnant  quiet  in  Europe  and  breath- 
taking developments  in  Asia  and  Africa.1  Some  of  the  fundamental  aspects  of 
this  time  appear  so  close  to  totalitarian  phenomena  of  the  twentieth  century 
that  it  may  be  justifiable  to  consider  the  whole  period  a preparatory  stage 
for  coming  catastrophes.  Its  quiet,  on  the  other  hand,  makes  it  appear  still 
very  much  a part  of  the  nineteenth  century.  We  can  hardly  avoid  looking  at 
this  close  and  yet  distant  past  with  the  too-wise  eyes  of  those  who  know  the 
end  of  the  story  in  advance,  who  know  it  led  to  an  almost  complete  break 
in  the  continuous  flow  of  Western  history  as  we  had  known  it  for  more  than 
two  thousand  years.  But  we  must  also  admit  a certain  nostalgia  for  what  can 
still  be  called  a “golden  age  of  security,”  for  an  age,  that  is,  when  even 
horrors  were  still  marked  by  a certain  moderation  and  controlled  by  re- 
spectability, and  therefore  could  be  related  to  the  general  appearance  of 
sanity.  In  other  words,  no  matter  how  close  to  us  this  past  is,  we  are  perfectly 
aware  that  our  experience  of  concentration  camps  and  death  factories  is  as 
remote  from  its  general  atmosphere  as  it  is  from  any  other  period  in  Western 

The  central  inner-European  event  of  the  imperialist  period  was  the  po- 
litical emancipation  of  the  bourgeoisie,  which  up  to  then  had  been  the  first 
class  in  history  to  achieve  economic  pre-eminence  without  aspiring  to.  politi- 
cal  rule.  The  bourgeoisie  had  developed  within,  and  together  with,  the  nation- 
state, which  almost  by  definition  ruled  over  and  beyond  a class-divided  so- 
ciety. Even  when  the  bourgeoisie  had  already  established  itself  as  the  ruling 
class,  it  had  left  all  political  decisions  to  the  state.  Only  when  the  nation- 
state proved  unfit  to  be  the  framework  for  the  further  growth  of  capitalist 
economy  did  the  latent  fight  between  state  and  society  become  openly  a 
struggle  for  power.  During  the  imperialist  period  neither  the  state  nor  the 

1 J.  A.  Hobson,  Imperialism , London,  1905,  1938,  p.  19:  “Though,  for  convenience, 
the  year  1870  has  been  taken  as  indicative  of  the  beginning  of  a conscious  policy  of 
Imperialism,  it  will  be  evident  that  the  movement  did  not  attain  its  full  impetus 
until  the  middle  of  the  eighties  . . . from  about  1884.” 



bourgeoisie  won  a decisive  victory.  National  institutions  resisted  throughout 
the  brutality  and  megalomania  of  imperialist  aspirations,  and  bourgeois  at- 
tempts to  use  the  state  and  its  instruments  of  violence  for  its  own  economic 
purposes  were  always  only  half  successful.  This  changed  when  the  German 
bourgeoisie  staked  everything  on  the  Hitler  movement  and  aspired  to  rule 
with  "the  help  of  the  mob,  but  then  it  turned  out  to  be  too  late.  The^bour- 
gcoisie  succeeded  in  destroying  the  nation-state  but  won  a Pyrrhic  victory; 
the  mob  proved  quite  capable  of  taking  care  of  politics  by  itself  and  liqui- 
dated the  bourgeoisie  along  with  all  other  classes  and  institutions. 

i:  Expansion  and  the  Nation-State 

“expansion  is  everything,”  said  Cecil  Rhodes,  and  fell  into  despair,  for 
every  night  he  saw  overhead  “these  stars  . . . these  vast  worlds  which  we 
can  never  reach.  I would  annex  the  planets  if  I could.”  2 He  had  discovered 
the  moving  principle  of  the  new,  the  imperialist  era  (within  less  than  two 
decades,  British  colonial  possessions  increased  by  4 V2  million  square  miles 
and  66  million  inhabitants,  the  French  nation  gained  3Vi  million  square 
miles  and  26  million  people,  the  Germans  won  a new  empire  of  a million 
square  miles  and  13  million  natives,  and  Belgium  through  her  king  acquired 
900,000  square  miles  with  8V2  million  population3);  and  yet  in  a flash  of 
w'isdom  Rhodes  recognized  at  the  same  moment  its  inherent  insanity  and  its 
contradiction  to  the  human  condition.  Naturally,  neither  insight  nor  sadness 
changed  his  policies.  He  had  no  use  for  the  flashes  of  wisdom  that  led  him  so 
far  beyond  the  normal  capacities  of  an  ambitious  businessman  with  a marked 
tendency  toward  megalomania. 

“World  politics  is  for  a nation  what  megalomania  is  for  an  individual,”  4 
said  Eugcn  Richter  (leader  of  the  German  progressive  party)  at  about  the 
same  historical  moment.  But  his  opposition  in  the  Reichstag  to  Bismarck’s 
proposal  to  support  private  companies  in  the  foundation  of  trading  and 
maritime  stations,  showed  clearly  that  he  understood  the  economic  needs  of 
a nation  in  his  time  even  less  than  Bismarck  himself.  It  looked  as  though 
those  who  opposed  or  ignored  imperialism — like  Eugen  Richter  in  Germany, 
or  Gladstone  in  England,  or  Clemenceau  in  France — had  lost  touch  with 
reality  and  did  not  realize  that  trade  and  economics  had  already  involved 
every  nation  in  world  politics.  The  national  principle  was  leading  into  pro- 
vincial ignorance  and  the  battle  fought  by  sanity  was  lost. 

2 S.  Gertrude  Millin,  Rhodes,  London,  1933,  p.  138. 

3 These  figures  are  quoted  by  Carlton  J.  H.  Hayes,  A Generation  of  Materialism , 
New  York,  1941,  p.  237,  and  cover  the  period  from  1871-1900.— See  also  Hobson, 
op.  cit.,  p.  19:  “Within  15  years  some  3 3A  millions  of  square  miles  were  added  to 
the  British  Empire,  1 million  square  miles  with  14  millions  inhabitants  to  the  Ger- 
man, 3 Vi  millions  square  miles  with  37  millions  inhabitants  to  the  French.” 

4 See  Ernst  Hasse,  Deutsche  Weltpolitik , Flugschriften  des  Alldeutschen  Verbandes, 
No.  5,  1897,  p.  1. 



Moderation  and  confusion  were  the  only  rewards  of  any  statesman’s  con- 
sistent opposition  to  imperialist  expansion.  Thus  Bismarck,  in  1871,  rejected 
the  offer  of  French  possessions  in  Africa  in  exchange  for  Alsace-Lorraine, 
and  twenty  years  later  acquired  Heligoland  from  Great  Britain  in  return  for 
Uganda,  Zanzibar,  and  Vitu — two  kingdoms  for  a bathtub,  as  the  German 
imperialists  told  him,  not  without  justice.  Thus  in  the  eighties  Clemenceau 
opposed  the  imperialist  party  in  France  when  they  wanted  to  send  an  ex- 
peditionary force  to  Egypt  against  the  British,  and  thirty  years  later  he  sur- 
rendered the  Mosul  oil  fields  to  England  for  the  sake  of  a French-British 
alliance.  Thus  Gladstone  was  being  denounced  by  Cromer  in  Egypt  as  “not 
a man  to  whom  the  destinies  of  the  British  Empire  could  safely  be 

That  statesmen,  who  thought  primarily  in  terms  of  the  established  na- 
tional territory,  were  suspicious  of  imperialism  was  justified  enough,  except 
that  more  was  involved  than  what  they  called  “overseas  adventures.”  They 
knew  by  instinct  rather  than  by  insight  that  this  new  expansion  movement, 
in  which  “patriotism  ...  is  best  expressed  in  money-making”  (Huebbe- 
Schleiden)  and  the  national  flag  is  a “commercial  asset”  (Rhodes),  could 
only  destroy  the  political  body  of  the  nation-state.  Conquest  as  well  as  empire 
building  had  fallen  into  disrepute  for  very  good  reasons.  They  had  been  car- 
ried out  successfully  only  by  governments  which,  like  the  Roman  Republic, 
were  based  primarily  on  law,  so  that  conquest  could  be  followed  by  integra- 
tion of  the  most  heterogeneous  peoples  by  imposing  upon  them  a common 
law.  The  nation-state,  however,  based  upon  a homogeneous  population’s 
active  consent  to  its  government  (“fe  plebiscite  de  tous  les  jours ” 5),  lacked 
such  a unifying  principle  and  would,  in  the  case  of  conquest,  have  to  assimi- 
late rather  than  to  integrate,  to  enforce  consent  rather  than  justice,  that  is, 
to  degenerate  into  tyranny.  Robespierre  was  already  well  aware  of  this  when 
he  exclaimed:  “Perissent  les  colonies  si  elles  nous  en  coutent  Vhonneur , la 

Expansion  as  a permanent  and  supreme  aim  of  politics  is  the  central  po- 
litical idea  of  imperialism.  Since  it  implies  neither  temporary  looting  nor  the 
more  lasting  assimilation  of  conquest,  it  is  an  entirely  new  concept  in  the 
long  history  of  political  thought  and  action.  The  reason  for  this  surprising 
originality — surprising  because  entirely  new  concepts  are  very  rare  in  poli- 
tics— is  simply  that  this  concept  is  not  really  political  at  all,  but  has  its 
origin  in  the  realm  of  business  speculation,  where  expansion  meant  the 
permanent  broadening  of  industrial  production  and  economic  transactions 
characteristic  of  the  nineteenth  century. 

In  the  economic  sphere,  expansion  was  an  adequate  concept  because  in- 
dustrial growth  was  a working  reality.  Expansion  meant  increase  in  actual 

5 Ernest  Renan  in  his  classical  essay  Qu’est-ce  qu’une  nation?,  Paris,  1882,  stressed 
“the  actual  consent,  the  desire  to  live  together,  the  will  to  preserve  worthily  the  un- 
divided inheritance  which  has  been  handed  down”  as  the  chief  elements  which  keep 
the  members  of  a people  together  in  such  a way  that  they  form  a nation.  Translation 
quoted  from  The  Poetry  of  the  Celtic  Races,  and  other  Studies,  London,  1896. 



production  of  goods  to  be  used  and  consumed.  The  processes  of  production 
are  as  unlimited  as  the  capacity  of  man  to  produce  for,  establish,  furnish, 
and  improve  on  the  human  world.  When  production  and  economic  growth 
slowed  down,  their  limits  were  not  so  much  economic  as  political,  insofar 
as  production  depended  on,  and  products  were  shared  by,  many  different 
peoples  who  were  organized  in  widely  differing  political  bodies. 

Imperialism  was  born  when  the  ruling  class  in  capitalist  production  came 
up  against  national  limitations  to  its  economic  expansion.  The  bourgeoisie 
turned  to  politics  out  of  economic  necessity;  for  if  it  did  not  want  to  give  up 
the  capitalist  system  whose  inherent  law  is  constant  economic  growth,  it  had 
to  impose  this  law  upon  its  home  governments  and  to  proclaim  expansion  to 
be  an  ultimate  political  goal  of  foreign  policy. 

With  the  slogan  “expansion  for  expansion’s  sake,”  the  bourgeoisie  tried 
and  partly  succeeded  in  persuading  their  national  governments  to  enter  upon 
the  path  of  world  politics.  The  new  policy  they  proposed  seemed  for  a mo- 
ment to  find  its  natural  limitations  and  balances  in  the  very  fact  that  several 
nations  started  their  expansions  simultaneously  and  competitively.  Im- 
perialism in  its  initial  stages  could  indeed  still  be  described  as  a struggle  of 
“competing  empires”  and  distinguished  from  the  “idea  of  empire  in  the 
ancient  and  medieval  world  (which)  was  that  of  a federation  of  States,  under 
a hegemony,  covering  ...  the  entire  recognized  world.”  6 Yet  such  a com- 
petition was  only  one  of  the  many  remnants  of  a past  era,  a concession  to 
that  still  prevailing  national  principle  according  to  which  mankind  is  a family 
of  nations  vying  for  excellence,  or  to  the  liberal  belief  that  competition  will 
automatically  set  up  its  own  stabilizing  predetermined  limits  before  one 
competitor  has  liquidated  all  the  others.  This  happy  balance,  however,  had 
hardly  been  the  inevitable  outcome  of  mysterious  economic  laws,  but  had 
relied  heavily  on  political,  and  even  more  on  police  institutions  that  pre- 
vented competitors  from  using  revolvers.  How  a competition  between  fully 
armed  business  concerns — “empires” — could  end  in  anything  but  victory 
for  one  and  death  for  the  others  is  difficult  to  understand.  In  other  words, 
competition  is  no  more  a principle  of  politics  than  expansion,  and  needs 
political  power  just  as  badly  for  control  and  restraint. 

In  contrast  to  the  economic  structure,  the  political  structure  cannot  be 
expanded  indefinitely,  because  it  is  not  based  upon  the  productivity  of  man, 
which  is,  indeed,  unlimited.  Of  all  forms  of  government  and  organizations 
of  people,  the  nation-state  is  least  suited  for  unlimited  growth  because  the 
genuine  consent  at  its  base  cannot  be  stretched  indefinitely,  and  is  only 
rarely,  and  with  difficulty,  won  from  conquered  peoples.  No  nation-state 
could  with  a clear  conscience  ever  try  to  conquer  foreign  peoples,  since 
such  a conscience  comes  only  from  the  conviction  of  the  conquering  nation 
that  it  is  imposing  a superior  law  upon  barbarians.7  The  nation,  however, 

0 Hobson,  op.  cit. 

7 This  bad  conscience  springing  from  the  belief  in  consent  as  the  basis  of  all  political 
organizahon  is  very  well  described  by  Harold  Nicolson,  Curzon:  The  Last  Phase  1919- 
1925,  Boston-New  York,  1934,  in  the  discussion  of  British  policy  in  Egypt:  “The 



conceived  of  its  law  as  an  outgrowth  of  a unique  national  substance  which 
was  not  valid  beyond  its  own  people  and  the  boundaries  of  its  own  territory. 

Wherever  the  nation-state  appeared  as  conqueror,  it  aroused  national 
consciousness  and  desire  for  sovereignty  among  the  conquered  people, 
thereby  defeating  all  genuine  attempts  at  empire  building.  Thus  the  French 
incorporated  Algeria  as  a province  of  the  mother  country,  but  could  not 
bring  themselves  to  impose  their  own  laws  upon  an  Arab  people.  They  con- 
tinued rather  to  respect  Islamic  law  and  granted  their  Arab  citizens  “personal 
status,”  producing  the  nonsensical  hybrid  of  a nominally  French  territory, 
legally  as  much  a part  of  France  as  the  Departement  de  la  Seine,  whose  in- 
habitants are  not  French  citizens. 

The  early  British  “empire  builders,”  putting  their  trust  in  conquest  as  a 
permanent  method  of  rule,  were  never  able  to  incorporate  their  nearest 
neighbors,  the  Irish,  into  the  far-flung  structure  cither  of  the  British  Empire 
or  the  British  Commonwealth  of  Nations;  but  when,  after  the  last  war,  Ire- 
land was  granted  dominion  status  and  welcomed  as  a full-fledged  member 
of  the  British  Commonwealth,  the  failure  was  just  as  real,  if  less  palpable. 
The  oldest  “possession”  and  newest  dominion  unilaterally  denounced  its 
dominion  status  (in  1937)  and  severed  all  ties  with  the  English  nation  when 
it  refused  to  participate  in  the  war.  England’s  rule  by  permanent  conquest, 
since  it  “simply  failed  to  destroy”  Ireland  (Chesterton),  had  not  so  much 
aroused  her  own  “slumbering  genius  of  imperialism” * * * *  8 as  it  had  awakened 
the  spirit  of  national  resistance  in  the  Irish. 

The  national  structure  of  the  United  Kingdom  had  made  quick  assimila- 
tion and  incorporation  of  the  conquered  peoples  impossible;  the  British 
Commonwealth  was  never  a “Commonwealth  of  Nations”  but  the  heir  of  the 
United  Kingdom,  one  nation  dispersed  throughout  the  world.  Dispersion  and 
colonization  did  not  expand,  but  transplanted,  the  political  structure,  with 
the  result  that  the  members  of  the  new  federated  body  remained  closely  tied 
to  their  common  mother  country  for  sound  reasons  of  common  past  and 
common  law.  The  Irish  example  proves  how  ill  fitted  the  United  Kingdom 
was  to  build  an  imperial  structure  in  which  many  different  peoples  could  live 
contentedly  together.9  The  British  nation  proved  to  be  adept  not  at  the 

justification  of  our  presence  in  Egypt  remains  based,  not  upon  the  defensible  right  of 

conquest,  or  on  force,  but  upon  our  own  belief  in  the  element  of  consent.  That  ele- 

ment, in  1919,  did  not  in  any  articulate  form  exist.  It  was  dramatically  challenged  by 

the  Egyptian  outburst  of  March  1919.” 

8 As  Lord  Salisbury  put  it,  rejoicing  over  the  defeat  of  Gladstone’s  first  Home  Rule 
Bill.  During  the  following  twenty  years  of  Conservative — and  that  was  at  that  time 
imperialist — rule  (1885-1905),  the  English-Irish  conflict  was  not  only  not  solved  but 
became  much  more  acute.  See  also  Gilbert  K.  Chesterton,  The  Crimes  of  England, 
1915,  pp.  57  ff. 

9 Why  in  the  initial  stages  of  national  development  the  Tudors  did  not  succeed  in 
incorporating  Ireland  into  Great  Britain  as  the  Valois  had  succeeded  in  incorporating 
Brittany  and  Burgundy  into  France,  is  still  a riddle.  It  may  be,  however,  that  a 
similar  process  was  brutally  interrupted  by  the  Cromwell  regime,  which  treated 
Ireland  as  one  great  piece  of  booty  to  be  divided  among  its  servants.  After  the  Crom- 
well revolution,  at  any  rate,  which  was  as  crucial  for  the  formation  of  the  British 



Roman  art  of  empire  building  but  at  following  the  Greek  model  of  coloniza- 
tion. Instead  of  conquering  and  imposing  their  own  law  upon  foreign  peo- 
ples, the  English  colonists  settled  on  newly  won  territory  in  the  four  corners 
of  the  world  and  remained  members  of  the  same  British  nation.10  Whether 
the  federated  structure  of  the  Commonwealth,  admirably  built  on  the  reality 
of  one  nation  dispersed  over  the  earth,  will  be  sufficiently  elastic  to  balance 
the  nation’s  inherent  difficulties  in  empire  building  and  to  admit  perma- 
nently non-British  peoples  as  full-fledged  “partners  in  the  concern”  of  the 
Commonwealth,  remains  to  be  seen.  The  present  dominion  status  of  India — 
a status,  by  the  way,  flatly  refused  by  Indian  nationalists  during  the  war — has 
frequently  been  considered  to  be  a temporary  and  transitory  solution.11 

The  inner  contradiction  between  the  nation’s  body  politic  and  conquest  as 
a political  device  has  been  obvious  since  the  failure  of  the  Napoleonic  dream. 
It  is  due  to  this  experience  and  not  to  humanitarian  considerations  that  con- 
quest has  since  been  officially  condemned  and  has  played  a minor  role  in 
the  adjustment  of  borderline  conflicts.  The  Napoleonic  failure  to  unite 
Europe  under  the  French  flag  was  a clear  indication  that  conquest  by  a 
nation  led  either  to  the  full  awakening  of  the  conquered  people’s  national 
consciousness  and  to  consequent  rebellion  against  the  conqueror,  or  to 
tyranny.  And  though  tyranny,  because  it  needs  no  consent,  may  successfully 
rule  over  foreign  peoples,  it  can  stay  in  power  only  if  it  destroys  first  of  all 
the  national  institutions  of  its  own  people. 

The  French,  in  contrast  to  the  British  and  all  other  nations  in  Europe, 

nation  as  the  French  Revolution  became  for  the  French,  the  United  Kingdom  had 
already  reached  that  stage  of  maturity  that  is  always  accompanied  by  a loss  of  the 
power  of  assimilation  and  integration  which  the  body  politic  of  the  nation  possesses 
only  in  its  initial  stages.  What  then  followed  was,  indeed,  one  long  sad  story  of 
“coercion  [that]  was  not  imposed  that  the  people  might  live  quietly  but  that  people 
might  die  quietly”  (Chesterton,  op . cit.,  p.  60). 

For  a historical  survey  of  the  Irish  question  that  includes  the  latest  developments, 
compare  the  excellent  unbiased  study  of  Nicholas  Mansergh,  Britain  and  Ireland  (in 
Longman's  Pamphlets  on  the  British  Commonwealth,  London,  1942). 

10  Very  characteristic  is  the  following  statement  of  J.  A.  Froude  made  shortly  before 
the  beginning  of  the  imperialist  era:  “Let  it  be  once  established  that  an  Englishman 
emigrating  to  Canada  or  the  Cape,  or  Australia,  or  New  Zealand  did  not  forfeit  his 
nationality,  that  he  was  still  on  English  soil  as  much  as  if  he  was  in  Devonshire  or 
Yorkshire,  and  would  remain  an  Englishman  while  the  English  Empire  lasted;  and 
if  we  spent  a quarter  of  the  sums  which  were  sunk  in  the  morasses  at  Balaclava  in 
sending  out  and  establishing  two  millions  of  our  people  in  those  colonies,  it  would 
contribute  more  to  the  essential  strength  of  the  country  than  all  the  wars  in  which 
we  have  been  entangled  from  Agincourt  to  Waterloo.”  Quoted  from  Robert  Livingston 
Schuyler,  The  Fall  of  the  Old  Colonial  System,  New  York,  1945,  pp.  280-81. 

11  The  eminent  South  African  writer,  Jan  Disselboom,  expressed  very  bluntly  the 
attitude  of  the  Commonwealth  peoples  on  this  question:  “Great  Britain  is  merely  a 
partner  in  the  concern  ...  all  descended  from  the  same  closely  allied  stock.  . . . 
Those  parts  of  the  Empire  which  are  not  inhabited  by  races  of  which  this  is  true, 
were  never  partners  in  the  concern.  They  were  the  private  property  of  the  pre- 
dominant partner.  . . . You  can  have  the  white  dominion,  or  you  can  have  the 
Dominion  of  India,  but  you  cannot  have  both.”  (Quoted  from  A.  Carthiil,  The  Lost 
Dominion,  1924.) 



actually  tried  in  recent  times  to  combine  ius  with  imperium  and  to  build  an 
empire  in  the  old  Roman  sense.  They  alone  at  least  attempted  to  develop  the 
body  politic  of  the  nation  into  an  imperial  political  structure,  believed  that 
“the  French  nation  (was)  marching  ...  to  spread  the  benefits  of  French 
civilization”;  they  wanted  to  incorporate  overseas  possessions  into  the  na- 
tional body  by  treating  the  conquered  peoples  as  “both  . . . brothers  and 
. . . subjects — brothers  in  the  fraternity  of  a common  French  civilization, 
and  subjects  in  that  they  are  disciples  of  French  light  and  followers  of 
French  leading.”  12  This  was  partly  carried  out  when  colored  delegates  took 
their  seats  in  the  French  Parliament  and  when  Algeria  was  declared  to  be  a 
department  of  France. 

The  result  of  this  daring  enterprise  was  a particularly  brutal  exploitation 
of  overseas  possessions  for  the  sake  of  the  nation.  All  theories  to  the  con- 
trary, the  French  Empire  actually  was  evaluated  from  the  point  of  view  of 
national  defense,13  and  the  colonies  were  considered  lands  of  soldiers  which 
could  produce  a force  noire  to  protect  the  inhabitants  of  France  against  their 
national  enemies.  Poincare’s  famous  phrase  in  1923,  “France  is  not  a coun- 
try of  forty  millions;  she  is  a country  of  one  hundred  millions,”  pointed 
simply  to  the  discovery  of  an  “economical  form  of  gunfodder,  turned  out  by 
mass-production  methods.”  14  When  Clemenceau  insisted  at  the  peace  table 
in  1918  that  he  eared  about  nothing  but  “an  unlimited  right  of  levying  black 
troops  to  assist  in  the  defense  of  French  territory  in  Europe  if  France  were 
attacked  in  the  future  by  Germany,”  15  he  did  not  save  the  French  nation 
from  German  aggression,  as  we  are  now  unfortunately  in  a position  to  know, 
although  his  plan  was  carried  out  by  the  General  Staff;  but  he  dealt  a death- 
blow to  the  still  dubious  possibility  of  a French  Empire.10  Compared  with 

12  Ernest  Barker,  Ideas  and  Ideals  of  the  British  Empire,  Cambridge,  1941,  p.  4. 

See  also  the  very  good  introductory  remarks  on  the  foundations  of  the  French  Em- 
pire in  The  French  Colonial  Empire  (in  Information  Department  Papers  No.  25,  pub- 
lished by  The  Royal  Institute  of  International  Affairs,  London,  1941),  pp.  9 ff . “The 
aim  is  to  assimilate  colonial  peoples  to  the  French  people,  or,  where  this  is  not  pos- 
sible in  more  primitive  communities,  to  ‘associate’  them,  so  that  more  and  more  the 
difference  between  la  France  metropole  and  la  France  d’outremer  shall  be  a geo- 
graphical difference  and  not  a fundamental  one.” 

13  See  Gabriel  Hanotaux,  “Le  General  Mangin”  in  Revue  des  Deux  Mondes  (1925), 
Tome  27. 

14  W.  P.  Crozier,  “France  and  her  ‘Black  Empire’  ” in  New  Republic,  January  23, 

15  David  Lloyd  George,  Memoirs  of  the  Peace  Conference,  New  Haven,  1939, 
I,  362  ff. 

16  A similar  attempt  at  brutal  exploitation  of  overseas  possessions  for  the  sake  of 
the  nation  was  made  by  the  Netherlands  in  the  Dutch  East  Indies  after  the  defeat  of 
Napoleon  had  restored  the  Dutch  colonies  to  the  much  impoverished  mother  country. 
By  means  of  compulsory  cultivation  the  natives  were  reduced  to  slavery  for  the 
benefit  of  the  government  in  Holland.  Multatuli’s  Max  Havelaar,  first  published  in 
the  sixties  of  the  last  century,  was  aimed  at  the  government  at  home  and  not  at  the 
services  abroad.  (See  de  Kat  Angelino,  Colonial  Policy , Vol.  II,  The  Dutch  East  Indies, 
Chicago,  1931,  p.  45.) 

This  system  was  quickly  abandoned  and  the  Netherlands  Indies,  for  a while,  be- 



this  blind  desperate  nationalism,  British  imperialists  compromising  on  the 
mandate  system  looked  like  guardians  of  the  self-determination  of  peoples. 
And  this  despite  the  fact  that  they  started  at  once  to  misuse  the  mandate 
system  by  “indirect  rule,”  a method  which  permits  the  administrator  to 
govern  a people  “not  directly  but  through  the  medium  of  their  own  tribal 
and  local  authorities.’' 17 

The  British  tried  to  escape  the  dangerous  inconsistency  inherent  in  the 
nation’s  attempt  at  empire  building  by  leaving  the  conquered  peoples  to  their 
own  devices  as  far  as  culture,  religion,  and  law  were  concerned,  by  staying 
aloof  and  refraining  from  spreading  British  law  and  culture.  This  did  not 
prevent  the  natives  from  developing  national  consciousness  and  from  clamor- 
ing for  sovereignty  and  independence — though  it  may  have  retarded  the 
process  somewhat.  But  it  has  strengthened  tremendously  the  new  im- 
perialist consciousness  of  a fundamental,  and  not  just  a temporary,  superi- 
ority of  man  over  man,  of  the  “higher”  over  the  “lower  breeds.”  This  in  turn 
exacerbated  the  subject  peoples’  fight  for  freedom  and  blinded  them  to  the 
unquestionable  benefits  of  British  rule.  From  the  very  aloofness  of  their 
administrators  who,  “despite  their  genuine  respect  for  the  natives  as  a peo- 
ple, and  in  some  cases  even  their  love  for  them  . . . almost  to  a man,  do 
not  believe  that  they  are  or  ever  will  be  capable  of  governing  themselves 
without  supervision,”  18  the  “natives”  could  not  but  conclude  that  they  were 
being  excluded  and  separated  from  the  rest  of  mankind  forever. 

Imperialism  is  not  empire  building  and  expansion  is  not  conquest.  The 
British  conquerors,  the  old  “breakers  of  law  in  India”  (Burke),  had  little 
in  common  with  the  exporters  of  British  money  or  the  administrators  of  the 
Indian  peoples.  If  the  latter  had  changed  from  applying  decrees  to  the  mak- 
ing of  laws,  they  might  have  become  empire  builders.  The  point,  however, 
is  that  the  English  nation  was  not  interested  in  this  and  would  hardly  have 
supported  them.  As  it  was,  the  imperialist-minded  businessmen  were  fol- 
lowed by  civil  servants  who  wanted  “the  African  to  be  left  an  African,”  while 
quite  a few,  who  had  not  yet  outgrown  what  Harold  Nicolson  once  called 

came  “ihe  admiration  of  all  colonizing  nations.”  (Sir  Hesketh  Bell,  former  Governor 
of  Uganda,  Northern  Nigeria,  etc..  Foreign  Colonial  Administration  in  the  Far  East , 
1928,  Part  I).  The  Dutch  methods  have  many  similarities  with  the  French:  the 
granting  of  European  status  to  deserving  natives,  introduction  of  a European  school 
system,  and  other  devices  of  gradual  assimilation.  The  Dutch  thereby  achieved  the 
same  result:  a strong  national  independence  movement  among  the  subject  people. 

In  the  present  study  Dutch  and  Belgian  imperialism  are  being  neglected.  The  first 
is  a curious  and  changing  mixture  of  French  and  English  methods;  the  second  is 
the  story  not  of  the  expansion  of  the  Belgian  nation  or  even  the  Belgian  bourgeoisie, 
but  of  the  expansion  of  the  Belgian  king  personally,  unchecked  by  any  government, 
unconnected  with  any  other  institution.  Both  the  Dutch  and  the  Belgian  forms  of 
imperialism  are  atypical.  The  Netherlands  did  not  expand  during  the  eighties,  but 
only  consolidated  and  modernized  their  old  possessions.  The  unequalled  atrocities 
committed  in  the  Belgian  Congo,  on  the  other  hand,  would  offer  too  unfair  an  example 
for  what  was  generally  happening  in  overseas  possessions. 

17  Ernest  Barker,  op.  cit.,  p.  69. 

18  Selwyn  James,  South  of  the  Congo,  New  York,  1943,  p.  326. 



their  “boyhood-ideals,”  19  wanted  to  help  them  to  “become  a better  Afri- 
can” 20 — whatever  that  may  mean.  In  no  case  were  they  “disposed  to  apply 
the  administrative  and  political  system  of  their  own  country  to  the  govern- 
ment of  backward  populations,”  21  and  to  tie  the  far-flung  possessions  of  the 
British  Crown  to  the  English  nation. 

In  contrast  to  true  imperial  structures,  where  the  institutions  of  the  mother 
country  are  in  various  ways  integrated  into  the  empire,  it  is  characteristic  of 
imperialism  that  national  institutions  remain  separate  from  the  colonial  ad- 
ministration although  they  are  allowed  to  exercise  control.  The  actual  mo- 
tivation for  this  separation  was  a curious  mixture  of  arrogance  and  respect: 
the  new  arrogance  of  the  administrators  abroad  who  faced  “backward  pop- 
ulations” or  “lower  breeds”  found  its  correlative  in  the  respect  of  old-fash- 
ioned statesmen  at  home  who  felt  that  no  nation  had  the  right  to  impose  its 
law  upon  a foreign  people.  It  was  in  the  very  nature  of  things  that  the  arro- 
gance turned  out  to  be  a device  for  rule,  while  the  respect,  which  remained 
entirely  negative,  did  not  produce  a new  way  for  peoples  to  live  together, 
but  managed  only  to  keep  the  ruthless  imperialist  rule  by  decree  within 
bounds.  To  the  salutary  restraint  of  national  institutions  and  politicians  we 
owe  whatever  benefits  the  non-European  peoples  have  been  able,  after  all 
and  despite  everything,  to  derive  from  Western  domination.  But  the  colonial 
services  never  ceased  to  protest  against  the  interference  of  the  “inexperienced 
majority” — the  nation — that  tried  to  press  the  “experienced  minority” — the 
imperialist  administrators — “in  the  direction  of  imitation,”  22  namely,  of  gov- 
ernment in  accordance  with  the  general  standards  of  justice  and  liberty  at 

That  a movement  of  expansion  for  expansion’s  sake  grew  up  in  nation- 
states which  more  than  any  other  political  bodies  were  defined  by  boundaries 
and  the  limitations  of  possible  conquest,  is  one  example  of  the  seemingly 
absurd  disparities  between  cause  and  effect  which  have  become  the  hallmark 
of  modern  history.  The  wild  confusion  of  modern  historical  terminology  is 
only  a by-product  of  these  disparities.  By  comparisons  with  ancient  Empires, 
by  mistaking  expansion  for  conquest,  by  neglecting  the  difference  between 
Commonwealth  and  Empire  (which  pre-imperialist  historians  called  the  dif- 
ference between  plantations  and  possessions,  or  colonies  and  dependencies, 
or,  somewhat  later,  colonialism  and  imperialism  23 ),  by  neglecting,  in  other 

19  About  these  boyhood  ideals  and  their  role  in  British  imperialism,  see  chapter  vii. 
How  they  were  developed  and  cultivated  is  described  in  Rudyard  Kipling’s  Stalky 
and  Company. 

20  Ernest  Barker,  op.  cit.,  p.  150. 

21  Lord  Cromer,  “The  Government  of  Subject  Races,”  in  Edinburgh  Review,  Jan- 
uary, 1908. 

22  Ibid. 

23  The  first  scholar  to  use  the  term  imperialism  to  differentiate  clearly  between  the 
“Empire”  and  the  “Commonwealth”  was  J.  A.  Hobson.  But  the  essential  difference 
was  always  well  known.  The  principle  of  “colonial  freedom”  for  instance,  cherished 
by  all  liberal  British  statesmen  after  the  American  Revolution,  was  held  valid  only 



words,  the  difference  between  export  of  (British)  people  and  export  of 
(British)  money,24  historians  tried  to  dismiss  the  disturbing  fact  that  so 
many  of  the  important  events  in  modern  history  look  as  though  molehills 
had  labored  and  had  brought  forth  mountains. 

Contemporary  historians,  confronted  with  the  spectacle  of  a few  capitalists 
conducting  their  predatory  searches  round  the  globe  for  new  investment  pos- 
sibilities and  appealing  to  the  profit  motives  of  the  much-too-rich  and  the 
gambling  instincts  of  the  much-too-poor,  want  to  clothe  imperialism  with 
the  old  grandeur  of  Rome  and  Alexander  the  Great,  a grandeur  which  would 
make  all  following  events  more  humanly  tolerable.  The  disparity  between 
cause  and  effect  was  betrayed  in  the  famous,  and  unfortunately  true,  remark 
that  the  British  Empire  was  acquired  in  a fit  of  absent-mindedness;  it  be- 
came cruelly  obvious  in  our  own  time  when  a World  War  was  needed  to  get 
rid  of  Hitler,  which  was  shameful  precisely  because  it  was  also  comic. 
Something  similar  was  already  apparent  during  the  Dreyfus  Affair  when 
the  best  elements  in  the  nation  were  needed  to  conclude  a struggle  which  had 
started  as  a grotesque  conspiracy  and  ended  as  a farce. 

The  only  grandeur  of  imperialism  lies  in  the  nation’s  losing  battle  against 
it.  The  tragedy  of  this  half-hearted  opposition  was  not  that  many  national 
representatives  could  be  bought  by  the  new  imperialist  businessmen;  worse 
than  corruption  was  the  fact  that  the  incorruptible  were  convinced  that  im- 
perialism was  the  only  way  to  conduct  world  politics.  Since  maritime  stations 
and  access  to  raw  materials  were  really  necessary  for  all  nations,  they  came 
to  believe  that  annexation  and  expansion  worked  for  the  salvation  of  the 
nation.  They  were  the  first  to  fail  to  understand  the  fundamental  difference 
between  the  old  foundation  of  trade  and  maritime  stations  for  the  sake  of 
trade  and  the  new  policy  of  expansion.  They  believed  Cecil  Rhodes  when 
he  told  them  to  “wake  up  to  the  fact  that  you  cannot  live  unless  you  have 
the  trade  of  the  world,”  “that  your  trade  is  the  world,  and  your  life  is  the 
world,  and  not  England,”  and  that  therefore  they  “must  deal  with  these 
questions  of  expansion  and  retention  of  the  world.”  2S  Without  wanting  to, 
sometimes  even  without  knowing  it,  they  not  only  became  accomplices  in 
imperialist  politics,  but  were  the  first  to  be  blamed  and  exposed  for  their 
“imperialism.”  Such  was  the  case  of  Clemenceau  who,  because  he  was  so 
desperately  worried  about  the  future  of  the  French  nation,  turned  “im- 

insofar  as  the  colony  was  “formed  of  the  British  people  or  . . . such  admixture  of 
the  British  population  as  to  make  it  safe  to  introduce  representative  institutions.”  See 
Robert  Livingston  Schuyler,  op.  cit.,  pp.  236  (T. 

In  the  nineteenth  century,  we  must  distinguish  three  types  of  overseas  possessions 
within  the  British  Empire:  the  settlements  or  plantations  or  colonics,  like  Australia 
and  other  dominions;  the  trade  stations  and  possessions  like  India;  and  the  maritime 
and  military  stations  like  the  Cape  of  Good  Hope,  which  were  held  for  the  sake  of 
the  former.  All  these  possessions  underwent  a change  in  government  and  political 
significance  in  the  era  of  imperialism. 

24  Ernest  Barker,  op.  cit. 

25  Millin,  op.  cit.,  p.  175. 


perialist”  in  the  hope  that  colonial  manpower  would  protect  French  citizens 
against  aggressors. 

The  conscience  of  the  nation,  represented  by  Parliament  and  a free  press, 
functioned,  and  was  resented  by  colonial  administrators,  in  all  European 
countries  with  colonial  possessions — whether  England,  France,  Belgium, 
Germany,  or  Holland.  In  England,  in  order  to  distinguish  between  the  im- 
perial government  seated  in  London  and  controlled  by  Parliament  and  co- 
lonial administrators,  this  influence  was  called  the  “imperial  factor,”  thereby 
crediting  imperialism  with  the  merits  and  remnants  of  justice  it  so  eagerly 
tried  to  eliminate.20  The  “imperial  factor”  was  expressed  politically  in  the 
concept  that  the  natives  were  not  only  protected  but  in  a way  represented 
by  the  British,  the  “Imperial  Parliament.”  27  Here  the  English  came  very 
close  to  the  French  experiment  in  empire  building,  although  they  never  went 
so  far  as  to  give  actual  representation  to  subject  peoples.  Nevertheless,  they 
obviously  hoped  that  the  nation  as  a whole  could  act  as  a kind  of  trustee 
for  its  conquered  peoples,  and  it  is  true  that  it  invariably  tried  its  best  to 
prevent  the  worst. 

The  conflict  between  the  representatives  of  the  “imperial  factor”  (which 
should  rather  be  called  the  national  factor)  and  the  colonial  administrators 
runs  like  a red  thread  through  the  history  of  British  imperialism.  The 
“prayer”  which  Cromer  addressed  to  Lord  Salisbury  during  his  adminis- 
tration of  Egypt  in  1896,  “save  me  from  the  English  Departments,”  28  was 
repeated  over  and  over  again,  until  in  the  twenties  of  this  century  the  nation 
and  everything  it  stood  for  were  openly  blamed  by  the  extreme  imperialist 
party  for  the  threatened  loss  of  India.  The  imperialists  had  always  been 
deeply  resentful  that  the  government  of  India  should  have  “to  justify  its  ex- 
istence and  its  policy  before  public  opinion  in  England”;  this  control  now 
made  it  impossible  to  proceed  to  those  measures  of  “administrative  mas- 

26  The  origin  of  this  misnomer  probably  lies  in  the  history  of  British  rule  in  South 
Africa,  and  goes  back  to  the  times  when  the  local  governors,  Cecil  Rhodes  and 
Jameson,  involved  the  “Imperial  Government”  in  London,  much  against  its  intentions, 
in  the  war  against  the  Boers.  “In  fact  Rhodes,  or  rather  Jameson,  was  absolute  ruler 
of  a territory  three  times  the  size  of  England,  which  could  be  administered  ‘without 
waiting  for  the  grudging  assent  or  polite  censure  of  the  High  Commissioner’  ” who 
was  the  representative  of  an  Imperial  Government  that  retained  only  “nominal  con- 
trol.” (Reginal  Ivan  Lovell,  The  Struggle  for  South  Africa,  JS75-JS99,  New  York, 
1934,  p.  194.)  And  what  happens  in  territories  in  which  the  British  government  has 
resigned  its  jurisdiction  to  the  local  European  population  that  lacks  all  traditional 
and  constitutional  restraint  of  nation-states,  can  best  be  seen  in  the  tragic  story  of 
the  South  African  Union  since  its  independence,  that  is,  since  the  time  when  the 
“Imperial  Government”  no  longer  had  any  right  to  interfere. 

27  The  discussion  in  the  House  of  Commons  in  May,  1908,  between  Charles  Dilke 
and  the  Colonial  Secretary  is  interesting  in  this  respect.  Dilke  warned  against  giving 
self-government  to  the  Crown  colonics  because  this  would  result  in  rule  of  the 
white  planters  over  their  colored  workers.  He  was  told  that  the  natives  too  had  a 
representation  in  the  English  House  of  Commons.  See  G.  Zoepfl,  “Kolonien  und 
Kolonialpolitik”  in  Handworterhuch  der  Staatswissenschaften. 

28  Lawrence  J.  Zetland,  Lord  Cromer , 1923,  p.  224. 



sacres”  29  which,  immediately  after  the  close  of  the  first  World  War,  had 
been  tried  occasionally  elsewhere  as  a radical  means  of  pacification,30  and 
which  indeed  might  have  prevented  India’s  independence. 

A similar  hostility  prevailed  in  Germany  between  national  representatives 
and  colonial  administrators  in  Africa.  In  1897,  Carl  Peters  was  removed 
from  his  post  in  German  Southeast  Africa  and  had  to  resign  from  the  gov- 
ernment service  because  of  atrocities  against  the  natives.  The  same  thing 
happened  to  Governor  Zimmerer.  And  in  1905,  the  tribal  chiefs  for  the  first 
time  addressed  their  complaints  to  the  Reichstag,  with  the  result  that  when 
the  colonial  administrators  threw  them  into  jail,  the  German  Government 

The  same  was  true  of  French  rule.  The  governors  general  appointed  by 
the  government  in  Paris  were  either  subject  to  powerful  pressure  from 
French  colonials  as  in  Algeria,  or  simply  refused  to  carry  out  reforms  in  the 
treatment  of  natives,  which  were  allegedly  inspired  by  “the  weak  democratic 
principles  of  (their)  government.”  32  Everywhere  imperialist  administrators 
felt  that  the  control  of  the  nation  was  an  unbearable  burden  and  threat  to 

And  the  imperialists  were  perfectly  right.  They  knew  the  conditions  of 
modern  rule  over  subject  peoples  better  than  those  who  on  the  one  hand 
protested  against  government  by  decree  and  arbitrary  bureaucracy  and  on 
the  other  hoped  to  retain  their  possessions  forever  for  the  greater  glory  of 
the  nation.  The  imperialists  knew  better  than  nationalists  that  the  body 
politic  of  the  nation  is  not  capable  of  empire  building.  They  were  perfectly 
aware  that  the  march  of  the  nation  and  its  conquest  of  peoples,  if  allowed 
to  follow  its  own  inherent  law,  ends  with  the  peoples’  rise  to  nationhood  and 
the  defeat  of  the  conqueror.  French  methods,  therefore,  which  always  tried 
to  combine  national  aspirations  with  empire  building,  were  much  less  suc- 
cessful than  British  methods,  which,  after  the  eighties  of  the  last  century, 
were  openly  imperialistic,  although  restrained  by  a mother  country  that 
retained  its  national  democratic  institutions. 

29  A.  Carthill,  The  Lost  Dominion,  1924,  pp.  41-42,  93. 

30  An  instance  of  “pacification”  in  the  Near  East  was  described  at  great  length  by 
T.  E.  Lawrence  in  an  article  “France,  Britain  and  the  Arabs”  written  for  The  Ob- 
server (1920):  “There  is  a preliminary  Arab  success,  the  British  reinforcements  go 
out  as  a punitive  force.  They  fight  their  way  ...  to  their  objective,  which  is  mean- 
while bombarded  by  artillery,  aeroplanes,  or  gunboats.  Finally  perhaps  a village  is 
burnt  and  the  district  pacified.  It  is  odd  that  we  don’t  use  poison  gas  on  these  occasions. 
Bombing  the  houses  is  a patchy  way  of  getting  the  women  and  children.  ...  By 
gas  attacks  the  whole  population  of  offending  districts  could  be  wiped  out  neatly;  and 
as  a method  of  government  it  would  be  no  more  immoral  than  the  present  system.” 
See  his  Letters,  edited  by  David  Garnett,  New  York,  1939,  pp.  311  ff. 

81  In  1910,  on  the  other  hand,  the  Colonial  Secretary  B.  Dernburg  had  to  resign 
because  he  had  antagonized  the  colonial  planters  by  protecting  the  natives.  See 
Mary  E.  Townsend,  Rise  and  Fall  of  Germany's  Colonial  Empire,  New  York,  1930, 
and  P.  Leutwein,  Kdmpfe  urn  Afrika,  Luebeck,  1936. 

32  In  the  words  of  Leon  Cayla,  former  Governor  General  of  Madagascar  and 
friend  of  Petain. 



II:  Power  and  the  Bourgeoisie 

what  imperialists  actually  wanted  was  expansion  of  political  power  with- 
out the  foundation  of  a body  politic.  Imperialist  expansion  had  been  touched 
off  by  a curious  kind  of  economic  crisis,  the  overproduction  of  capital  and 
the  emergence  of  “superfluous”  money,  the  result  of  oversaving,  which  could 
no  longer  find  productive  investment  within  the  national  borders.  For  the 
first  time,  investment  of  power  did  not  pave  the  way  for  investment  of  money, 
but  export  of  power  followed  meekly  in  the  train  of  exported  money,  since 
uncontrollable  investments  in  distant  countries  threatened  to  transform  large 
strata  of  society  into  gamblers,  to  change  the  whole  capitalist  economy  from 
a system  of  production  into  a system  of  financial  speculation,  and  to  replace 
the  profits  of  production  with  profits  in  commissions.  The  decade  immedi- 
ately before  the  imperialist  era,  the  seventies  of  the  last  century,  witnessed 
an  unparalleled  increase  in  swindles,  financial  scandals,  and  gambling  in  the 
stock  market. 

The  pioneers  in  this  pre-imperialist  development  were  those  Jewish  finan- 
ciers who  had  earned  their  wealth  outside  the  capitalist  system  and  had  been 
needed  by  the  growing  nation-states  for  internationally  guaranteed  loans.33 
With  the  firm  establishment  of  the  tax  system  that  provided  for  sounder  gov- 
ernment finances,  this  group  had  every  reason  to  fear  complete  extinction. 
Having  earned  their  money  for  centuries  through  commissions,  they  were 
naturally  the  first  to  be  tempted  and  invited  to  serve  in  the  placement  of 
capital  which  could  no  longer  be  invested  profitably  in  the  domestic  market. 
The  Jewish  international  financiers  seemed  indeed  especially  suited  for  such 
essentially  international  business  operations.34  What  is  more,  the  govern- 
ments themselves,  whose  assistance  in  some  form  was  needed  for  investments 
in  faraway  countries,  tended  in  the  beginning  to  prefer  the  well-known 

33  For  this  and  the  following  compare  chapter  ii. 

34  It  is  interesting  that  all  early  observers  of  imperialist  developments  stress  this 
Jewish  element  very  strongly  while  it  hardly  plays  any  role  in  more  recent  literature. 
Especially  noteworthy,  because  very  reliable  in  observation  and  very  honest  in 
analysis,  is  J.  A.  Hobson’s  development  in  this  respect.  In  the  first  essay  which  he 
wrote  on  the  subject,  “Capitalism  and  Imperialism  in  South  Africa”  (in  Contemporary 
Review,  1900),  he  said:  “Most  of  (the  financiers)  were  Jews,  for  the  Jews  are  par 
excellence  the  international  financiers,  and,  though  English-speaking,  most  of  them 
are  of  continental  origin.  . . . They  went  there  (Transvaal)  for  money,  and  those 
who  came  early  and  made  most  have  commonly  withdrawn  their  persons,  leaving  their 
economic  fangs  in  the  carcass  of  their  prey.  They  fastened  on  the  Rand  ...  as  they 
are  prepared  to  fasten  upon  any  other  spot  upon  the  globe.  . . . Primarily,  they  are 
financial  speculators  taking  their  gains  not  out  of  the  genuine  fruits  of  industry,  even 
the  industry  of  others,  but  out  of  construction,  promotion  and  financial  manipulation 
of  companies.”  In  Hobson’s  later  study  Imperialism,  however,  the  Jews  are  not  even 
mentioned;  it  had  become  obvious  in  the  meantime  that  their  influence  and  role  had 
been  temporary  and  somewhat  superficial. 

For  the  role  of  Jewish  financiers  in  South  Africa,  see  chapter  vii. 



Jewish  financiers  to  newcomers  in  international  finance,  many  of  whom  were 
nd  venturers. 

After  the  financiers  had  opened  the  channels  of  capital  export  to  the 
superfluous  wealth,  which  had  been  condemned  to  idleness  within  the  nar- 
row framework  of  national  production,  it  quickly  became  apparent  that  the 
absentee  shareholders  did  not  care  to  take  the  tremendous  risks  which  cor- 
responded to  their  tremendously  enlarged  profits.  Against  these  risks,  the 
commission-earning  financiers,  even  with  the  benevolent  assistance  of  the 
state,  did  not  have  enough  power  to  insure  them:  only  the  material  power  of 
a state  could  do  that. 

As  soon  as  it  became  clear  that  export  of  money  would  have  to  be  fol- 
lowed by  export  of  government  power,  the  position  of  financiers  in  general, 
and  Jewish  financiers  in  particular,  was  considerably  weakened,  and  the 
leadership  of  imperialist  business  transactions  and  enterprise  was  gradually 
taken  over  by  members  of  the  native  bourgeoisie.  Very  instructive  in  this 
respect  is  the  career  of  Cecil  Rhodes  in  South  Africa,  who,  an  absolute  new- 
comer, in  a few  years  could  supplant  the  all-powerful  Jewish  financiers  in 
first  place.  In  Germany,  Bleichroeder,  who  in  1885  had  still  been  a co- 
partner in  the  founding  of  the  Ostafrikanische  Gesellschaft,  was  superseded 
along  with  Baron  Hirsch  when  Germany  began  the  construction  of  the 
Bagdad  railroad,  fourteen  years  later,  by  the  coming  giants  of  imperialist 
enterprise,  Siemens  and  the  Deutsche  Bank.  Somehow  the  government’s  re- 
luctance to  yield  real  power  to  Jews  and  the  Jews’  reluctance  to  engage  in 
business  with  political  implication  coincided  so  well  that,  despite  the  great 
wealth  of  the  Jewish  group,  no  actual  struggle  for  power  ever  developed 
after  the  initial  stage  of  gambling  and  commission-earning  had  come  to 
an  end. 

The  various  national  governments  looked  with  misgiving  upon  the  grow- 
ing tendency  to  transform  business  into  a political  issue  and  to  identify  the 
economic  interests  of  a relatively  small  group  with  national  interests  as  such. 
But  it  seemed  that  the  only  alternative  to  export  of  power  was  the  deliberate 
sacrifice  of  a great  part  of  the  national  wealth.  Only  through  the  expansion 
of  the  national  instruments  of  violence  could  the  foreign-investment  move- 
ment be  rationalized,  and  the  wild  speculations  with  superfluous  capital, 
which  had  provoked  gambling  of  all  savings,  be  reintegrated  into  the  eco- 
nomic system  of  the  nation.  The  state  expanded  its  power  because,  given  the 
choice  between  greater  losses  than  the  economic  body  of  any  country  could 
sustain  and  greater  gains  than  any  people  left  to  its  own  devices  would  have 
dreamed  of,  it  could  only  choose  the  latter. 

The  first  consequence  of  power  export  was  that  the  state’s  instruments  of 
violence,  the  police  and  the  army,  which  in  the  framework  of  the  nation 
existed  beside,  and  were  controlled  by,  other  national  institutions,  were 
separated  from  this  body  and  promoted  to  the  position  of  national  repre- 
sentatives in  uncivilized  or  weak  countries.  Here,  in  backward  regions  with- 
out industries  and  political  organization,  where  violence  was  given  more 
latitude  than  in  any  Western  country,  the  so-called  laws  of  capitalism  were 


actually  allowed  to  create  realities.  The  bourgeoisie’s  empty  desire  to  have 
money  beget  money  as  men  beget  men  had  remained  an  ugly  dream  so  long 
as  money  had  to  go  the  long  way  of  investment  in  production;  not  money 
had  begotten  money,  but  men  had  made  things  and  money.  The  secret  of 
the  new  happy  fulfillment  was  precisely  that  economic  laws  no  longer  stood 
in  the  way  of  the  greed  of  the  owning  classes.  Money  could  finally  beget 
money  because  power,  with  complete  disregard  for  all  laws — economic  as 
well  as  ethical — could  appropriate  wealth.  Only  when  exported  money  suc- 
ceeded in  stimulating  the  export  of  power  could  it  accomplish  its  owners’ 
designs.  Only  the  unlimited  accumulation  of  power  could  bring  about  the 
unlimited  accumulation  of  capital. 

Foreign  investments,  capital  export  which  had  started  as  an  emergency 
measure,  became  a permanent  feature  of  all  economic  systems  as  soon  as  it 
was  protected  by  export  of  power.  The  imperialist  concept  of  expansion, 
according  to  which  expansion  is  an  end  in  itself  and  not  a temporary 
means,  made  its  appearance  in  political  thought  when  it  had  become  obvious 
that  one  of  the  most  important  permanent  functions  of  the  nation-state 
would  be  expansion  of  power.  The  state-employed  administrators  of  vio- 
lence soon  formed  a new  class  within  the  nations  and,  although  their  field  of 
activity  was  far  away  from  the  mother  country,  wielded  an  important  influ- 
ence on  the  body  politic  at  home.  Since  they  were  actually  nothing  but 
functionaries  of  violence  they  could  only  think  in  terms  of  power  politics. 
They  were  the  first  who,  as  a class  and  supported  by  their  everyday  experi- 
ence, would  claim  that  power  is  the  essence  of  every  political  structure. 

The  new  feature  of  this  imperialist  political  philosophy  is  not  the  pre-v 
dominant  place  it  gave  violence,  nor  the  discovery  that  power  is  one  of  the  f 
basic  political  realities.  Violence  has  always  been  the  ultima  ratio  in  po- 
litical action  and  power  has  always  been  the  visible  expression  of  rule  and 
government.  But  neither  had  ever  before  been  the  conscious  aim  of  the  body 
politic  or  the  ultimate  goal  of  any  definite  policy . For  power  left  to  itself  can 
achieve  nothing  but  more  power,  and  violence  administered  for  power’s  _ ( and 
not  for  law’s)  sake  turns  into  n destructive  principle  that  will  not  stop,  until 
there  is  nothing  .left  to  violate. 

This  contradiction,  inherent  in  all  ensuing  power  politics,  however,  takes 
on  an  appearance  of  sense  if  one  understands  it  in  the  context  of  a sup- 
posedly permanent  process  which  has  no  end  or  aim  but  itself.  Then  the 
test  of  achievement  can  indeed  become  meaningless  and  power  can  be 
thought  of  as  the  never-ending,  self-feeding  motor  of  all  political  action 
that  corresponds  to  the  legendary  unending  accumulation  of  money  that 
begets  money.  The  concept  of  unlimited  expansion  that  alone  can  fulfill  the 
hope  for  unlimited  accumulation  of  capital,  and  brings  about  the  aimless 
accumulation  of  power,  makes  the  foundation  of  new  political  bodies — 
which  up  to  the  era  of  imperialism  always  had  been  the  upshot  of  conquest — 
well-nigh  impossible.  In  fact,  its  logical  consequence  is  the  destruction  of  all 
living  communities,  those  of  the  conquered  peoples  as  well  as  of  the  people 
at  home.  For  every  political  structure,  new  or  old,  left  to  itself  develops 



stabilizing  forces  which  stand  in  the  way  of  constant  transformation  and  ex- 
pansion. Therefore  all  political  bodies  appear  to  be  temporary  obstacles 
when  they  are  seen  as  part  of  an  eternal  stream  of  growing  power. 

While  the  administrators  of  permanently  increasing  power  in  the  past  era 
of  moderate  imperialism  did  not  even  try  to  incorporate  conquered  terri- 
tories, and  preserved  existing  backward  political  communities  like  empty 
ruins  of  bygone  life,  their  totalitarian  successors  dissolved  and  destroyed  all 
politically  stabilized  structures,  their  own  as  well  as  those  of  other  peoples. 
The  mere  export  of  violence  made  the  servants  into  masters  without  giving 
them  the  master’s  prerogative:  the  possible  creation  of  something  new. 
Monopolistic  concentration  and  tremendous  accumulation  of  violence  at 
home  made  the  servants  active  agents  in  the  destruction,  until  finally  totali- 
tarian expansion  became  a nation-  and  a people-destroying  force. 

Power  became  the  essence  of  political  action  and  the  center  of  political 
thought  when  it  was  separated  from  the  political  community  whichjt  should 
serve.  This,  it  is  true,  was  brought  about  by  an  economic  factor.  But  the  re- 
sulting introduction  of  power  as  the  only  content  of  politics,  and  of  expansion 
as  its  only  aim,  would  hardly  have  met  with  such  universal  applause,  nor 
would  the  resulting  dissolution  of  the  nation’s  body  politic  have  met  with 
so  little  opposition,  had  it  not  so  perfectly  answered  the  hidden  desires  and 
secret  convictions  of  the  economically  and  socially  dominant  classes.  The 
bourgeoisie,  so  long  excluded  from  government  by  the  nation-state,  and  by 
their  own  lack  of  interest  in  public  affairs,  was  politically  emancipated  by 

Imperialism  must  be  considered  the  first  stage  in  political  rule  of  the 
bourgeoisie  rather  than  the  last  stage  of  capitalism.  It  is  well  known  how 
little  the  owning  classes  had  aspired  to  government,  how  well  contented  they 
had  been  with  every  type  of  state  that  could  be  trusted  with  protection  of 
property  rights.  For  them,  indeed,  the  state  had  always  been  only  a well- 
organized  police  force.  This  false  modesty,  however,  had  the  curious  conse- 
quence of  keeping  the  whole  bourgeois  class  out  of  the  body  politic;  before 
they  were  subjects  in  a monarchy  or  citizens  in  a republic,  they  were 
essentially  private  persons.  This  privateness  and  primary  concern  with 
money-making  had  developed  a set  of  behavior  patterns  which  are  expressed 
in  all  those  proverbs — “nothing  succeeds  like  success,”  “might  is  right,” 
“right  is  exped’ency,”  etc. — that  necessarily  spring  from  the  experience  of  a 
society  of  competitors. 

When,  in  the  era  of  imperialism,  businessmen  became  politicians  and  were 
acclaimed  as  statesmen,  while  statesmen  were  taken  seriously  only  if  they 
talked  the  language  of  successful  businessmen  and  “thought  in  continents,” 
these  private  practices  and  devices  were  gradually  transformed  into  rules 
and  principles  for  the  conduct  of  public  affairs.  The  significant  fact  about 
this  process  of  revaluation,  which  began  at  the  end  of  the  last  century  and  is 
still  in  effect,  is  that  it  began  with  the  application  of  bourgeois  convictions 
to  foreign  affairs  and  only  slowly  was  extended  to  domestic  politics.  There- 
fore, the  nations  concerned  were  hardly  aware  that  the  recklessness  that  had 


prevailed  in  private  life,  and  against  which  the  public  body  always  had  to 
defend  itself  and  its  individual  citizens,  was  about  to  be  elevated  to  the  one 
publicly  honored  political  principle. 

It  is  significant  that  modern  believers  in  power  are  in  complete  accord 
with  the  philosophy  of  the  only  great  thinker  who  ever  attempted  to  derive 
public  good  from  private  interest  and  who,  for  the  sake  of  private  good, 
conceived  and  outlined  a Commonwealth  whose  basis  and  ultimate  end  is 
accumulation  of  power.  Hobbes,  indeed,  is  the  only  great  philosopher  to 
whom  the  bourgeoisie  can  rightly  and  exclusively  lay  claim,  even  if  his  prin- 
ciples were  not  recognized  by  the  bourgeois  class  for  a long  time.  Hobbes’s 
Leviathan  35  exposed  the  only  political  theory  according  to  which  the  state 
is  based  not  on  some  kind  of  constituting  law — whether  divine  law,  the  law 
of  nature,  or  the  law  of  social  contract — which  determines  the  rights  and 
wrongs  of  the  individual’s  interest  with  respect  to  public  affairs,  but  on  the 
individual  interests  themselves,  so  that  “the  private  interest  is  the  same  with 
the  publique.”  36 

There  is  hardly  a single  bourgeois  moral  standard  which  has  not  been  an- 
ticipated by  the  unequaled  magnificence  of  Hobbes’s  logic.  He  gives  an 
almost  complete  picture,  not  of  Man  but  of  the  bourgeois  man,  an  analysis 
which  in  three  hundred  years  has  neither  been  outdated  nor  excelled.  “Rea- 
son ...  is  nothing  but  Reckoning”;  “a  free  Subject,  a free  Will  . . . 
[are]  words  . . . without  meaning;  that  is  to  say,  Absurd.”  A being  with- 
out reason,  without  the  capacity  for  truth,  and  without  free  will — that  is, 
without  the  capacity  for  responsibility — man  is  essentially  a function  of 
society  and  judged  therefore  according  to  his  “value  or  worth  ...  his 
price;  that  is  to  say  so  much  as  would  be  given  for  the  use  of  his  power.” 
This  price  is  constantly  evaluated  and  re-evaluated  by  society,  the  “esteem  of 
others,”  depending  upon  the  law  of  supply  and  demand. 

Power,  according  to  Hobbes,  is  the  accumulated  control  that  permits  the 
individual  to  fix  prices  and  regulate  supply  and  demand  in  such  a way  that 
they  contribute  to  his  own  advantage.  The  individual  will  consider  his  ad- 
vantage in  complete  isolation,  from  the  point  of  view  of  an  absolute  mi- 
nority, so  to  speak;  he  will  then  realize  that  he  can  pursue  and  achieve  his 
interest  only  with  the  help  of  some  kind  of  majority.  Therefore,  if  man  is 
actually  driven  by  nothing  but  his  individual  interests,  desire  for  power  must 
be  the  fundamental  passion  of  man.  It  regulates  the  relations  between  indi- 
vidual and  society,  and  all  other  ambitions  as  well,  for  riches,  knowledge, 
and  honor  follow  from  it. 

35  All  quotes  in  the  following  if  not  annotated  are  from  the  Leviathan. 

36  The  coincidence  of  this  identification  with  the  totalitarian  pretense  of  having 
abolished  the  contradictions  between  individual  and  public  interests  is  significant 
enough  (see  chapter  xii).  However,  one  should  not  overlook  the  fact  that  Hobbes 
wanted  most  of  all  to  protect  private  interests  by  pretending  that,  rightly  understood, 
they  were  the  interests  of  the  body  politic  as  well,  while  on  the  contrary  totalitarian 
regimes  proclaim  the  nonexistence  of  privacy. 



Hobbes  points  out  that  in  the  struggle  for  power,  as  in  their  native  ca- 
pacities for  power,  all  men  arc  equal;  for  the  equality  of  men  is  based  on  the 
fact  that  each  has  by  nature  enough  power  to  kill  another.  Weakness  can  be 
compensated  for  by  guile.  Their  equality  as  potential  murderers  places  all 
men  in  the  same  insecurity,  from  which  arises  the  need  for  a state.  The 
raison  d'etre  of  the  state  is  the  need  for  some  security  of  the  individual,  who 
feels  himself  menaced  by  all  his  fellow-men. 

The  crucial  feature  in  Hobbes’s  picture  of  man  is  not  at  all  the  realistic 
pessimism  for  which  it  has  been  praised  in  recent  times.  For  if  it  were  true 
that  man  is  a being  such  as  Hobbes  would  have  him,  he  would  be  unable  to 
found  any  body  politic  at  all.  Hobbes,  indeed,  does  not  succeed,  and  does 
not  even  want  to  succeed,  in  incorporating  this  being  definitely  into  a po- 
litical community.  Hobbes’s  Man  owes  no  loyalty  to  his  country  if  it  has 
been  defeated  and  he  is  excused  for  every  treachery  if  he  happens  to  be 
taken  prisoner.  Those  who  live  outside  the  Commonwealth  (for  instance, 
slaves)  have  no  further  obligation  toward  their  fellow-men  but  are  permitted 
to  kill  as  many  as  they  can;  while,  on  the  contrary,  “to  resist  the  Sword  of 
the  Commonwealth  in  defence  of  another  man,  guilty  or  innocent,  no  man 
hath  Liberty,”  which  means  that  there  is  neither  fellowship  nor  responsi- 
bility between  man  and  man.  What  holds  them  together  is  a common  in- 
terest which  may  be  “some  Capitall  crime,  for  which  every  one  of  them  ex- 
pecteth  death”;  in  this  case  they  have  the  right  to  “resist  the  Sword  of  the 
Commonwealth,”  to  “joyn  together,  and  assist,  and  defend  one  another.  . . . 
For  they  but  defend  their  lives.” 

Thus  membership  in  any  form  of  community  is  for  Hobbes  a temporary 
and  limited  affair  which  essentially  does  not  change  the  solitary  and  private 
character  of  the  individual  (who  has  “no  pleasure,  but  on  the  contrary  a 
great  deale  of  griefe  in  keeping  company,  where  there  is  no  power  to  over- 
awe them  all”)  or  create  permanent  bonds  between  him  and  his  fellow-men. 
It  seems  as  though  Hobbes’s  picture  of  man  defeats  his  purpose  of  pro- 
viding the  basis  for  a Commonwealth  and  gives  instead  a consistent  pattern 
of  attitudes  through  which  every  genuine  community  can  easily  be  de- 
stroyed. This  results  in  the  inherent  and  admitted  instability  of  Hobbes’s 
Commonwealth,  whose  very  conception  includes  its  own  dissolution — “when 
in  a warre  (forraign,  or  intestine,)  the  enemies  get  a final  Victory  . . . then 
is  the  Commonwealth  dissolved,  and  every  man  at  liberty  to  protect  him- 
selfe” — an  instability  that  is  all  the  more  striking  as  Hobbes’s  primary  and 
frequently  repeated  aim  was  to  secure  a maximum  of  safety  and  stability. 

It  would  be  a grave  injustice  to  Hobbes  and  his  dignity  as  a philosopher 
to  consider  this  picture  of  man  an  attempt  at  psychological  realism  or  philo- 
sophical truth.  The  fact  is  that  Hobbes  is  interested  in  neither,  but  concerned 
exclusively  with  the  political  structure  itself,  and  he  depicts  the  features  of 
man  according  to  the  needs  of  the  Leviathan.  For  argument’s  and  convic- 
tion s sake,  he  presents  his  political  outline  as  though  he  started  from  a 
realistic  insight  into  man,  a being  that  “desires  power  after  power,”  and  as 
though  he  proceeded  from  this  insight  to  a plan  for  a body  politic  best 



fitted  for  this  power-thirsty  animal.  The  actual  process,  i.e.,  the  only 
process  in  which  his  concept  of  man  makes  sense  and  goes  beyond  the 
obvious  banality  of  an  assumed  human  wickedness,  is  precisely  the  opposite. 

This  new  body  politic  was  conceived  for  the  benefit  of  the  new  bourgeois 
society  as  it  emerged  in  the  seventeenth  century  and  this  picture  of  man  is  a 
sketch  for  the  new  type  of  Man  who  would  fit  into  it.  The  Commonwealth  is 
based  on  the  delegation  of  power,  and  not  of  rights.  It  acquires  a monopoly 
on  killing  and  provides  in  exchange  a conditional  guarantee  against  being 
killed.  Security  is  provided  by  the  law,  which  is  a direct  emanation  from  the 
power  monopoly  of  the  state  (and  is  not  established  by  man  according  to 
human  standards  of  right  and  wrong).  And  as  this  law  flows  directly  from 
absolute  power,  it  represents  absolute  necessity  in  the  eyes  of  the  individual 
who  lives  under  it.  In  regard  to  the  law  of  the  state — that  is,  the  accumulated 
power  of  society  as  monopolized  by  the  state — there  is  no  question  of  right 
or  wrong,  but  only  absolute  obedience,  the  blind  conformism  of  bourgeois 

Deprived  of  political  rights,  the  individual,  to  whom  public  and  official 
life  manifests  itself  in  the  guise  of  necessity,  acquires  a new  and  increased 
interest  in  his  private  life  and  his  personal  fate.  Excluded  from  participation 
in  the  management  of  public  affairs  that  involve  all  citizens,  the  individual 
loses  his  rightful  place  in  society  and  his  natural  connection  with  his  fellow- 
men.  He  can  now  judge  his  individual  private  life  only  by  comparing  it  with 
that  of  others,  and  his  relations  with  his  fellow-men  inside  society  take  the 
form  of  competition.  Once  public  affairs  are  regulated  by  the  state  under 
the  guise  of  necessity,  the  social  or  public  careers  of  the  competitors  come 
under  the  sway  of  chance.  In  a society  of  individuals,  all  equipped  by  nature 
with  equal  capacity  for  power  and  equally  protected  from  one  another  by 
the  state,  only  chance  can  decide  who  will  succeed.37 

According  to  bourgeois  standards,  those  who  are  completely  unlucky  and 
unsuccessful  are  automatically  barred  from  competition,  which  is  the  life  of 
society.  Good  fortune  is  identified  with  honor,  and  bad  luck  with  shame.  By 
assigning  his  political  rights  to  the  state  the  individual  also  delegates  his 
social  responsibilities  to  it:  he  asks  the  state  to  relieve  him  of  the  burden  of 

37  The  elevation  of  chance  to  the  position  of  final  arbiter  over  the  whole  of  life  was 
to  reach  its  full  development  in  the  nineteenth  century.  With  it  came  a new  genre  of 
literature,  the  novel,  and  the  decline  of  the  drama.  For  the  drama  became  meaning- 
less in  a world  without  action,  while  the  novel  could  deal  adequately  with  the  destinies 
of  human  beings  who  were  either  the  victims  of  necessity  or  the  favorites  of  luck. 
Balzac  showed  the  full  range  of  the  new  genre  and  even  presented  human  passions  as 
man’s  fate,  containing  neither  virtue  nor  vice,  neither  reason  nor  free  will.  Only  the 
novel  in  its  full  maturity,  having  interpreted  and  re-interpreted  the  entire  scale  of 
human  matters,  could  preach  the  new  gospel  of  infatuation  with  one’s  own  fate  that 
has  played  such  a great  role  among  nineteenth-century  intellectuals.  By  means  of 
such  infatuation  the  artist  and  intellectual  tried  to  draw  a line  between  themselves 
and  the  philistines,  to  protect  themselves  against  the  inhumanity  of  good  or  bad 
luck,  and  they  developed  all  the  gifts  of  modern  sensitivity — for  suffering,  for  under- 
standing, for  playing  a prescribed  role — which  are  so  desperately  needed  by  human 
dignity,  which  demands  of  a man  that  ho  at  least  be  a willing  victim  if  nothing  else. 



caring  for  the  poor  precisely  as  he  asks  for  protection  against  criminals.  The 
difference  between  pauper  and  criminal  disappears — both  stand  outside 
society.  The  unsuccessful  are  robbed  of  the  virtue  that  classical  civilization 
left  them;  the  unfortunate  can  no  longer  appeal  to  Christian  charity. 

Hobbes  liberates  those  who  are  excluded  from  society — the  unsuccessful, 
the  unfortunate,  the  criminal — from  every  obligation  toward  society  and  state 
if  the  state  does  not  take  care  of  them.  They  may  give  free  rein  to  their  de- 
sire for  power  and  are  told  to  take  advantage  of  their  elemental  ability  to 
kill,  thus  restoring  that  natural  equality  which  society  conceals  only  for  the 
sake  of  expediency.  Hobbes  foresees  and  justifies  the  social  outcasts’  organi- 
zation into  a gang  of  murderers  as  a logical  outcome  of  the  bourgeoisie’s 
moral  philosophy. 

Since  power  is  essentially  only  a means  to  an  end  a community  based 
solely  on  power  must  decay  in  the  calm  of  order  and  stability;  its  complete 
security  reveals  that  it  is  built  on  sand.  Only  by  acquiring  more  power  can  it 
guarantee  the  status  quo;  only  by  constantly  extending  its  authority  and  only 
through  the  process  of  power  accumulation  can  it  remain  stable.  Hobbes’s 
Commonwealth  is  a vacillating  structure  and  must  always  provide  itself  with 
new  props  from  the  outside;  otherwise  it  would  collapse  overnight  into  the 
aimless,  senseless  chaos  of  the  private  interests  from  which  it  sprang.  Hobbes 
embodies  the  necessity  of  power  accumulation  in  the  theory  of  the  state  of 
nature,  the  “condition  of  perpetual  war”  of  all  against  all,  in  which  the 
various  single  states  still  remain  vis-a-vis  each  other  like  their  individual 
subjects  before  they  submitted  to  the  authority  of  a Commonwealth.38  This 
ever-present  possibility  of  war  guarantees  the  Commonwealth  a prospect  of 
permanence  because  it  makes  it  possible  for  the  state  to  increase  its  power 
at  the  expense  of  other  states. 

It  would  be  erroneous  to  take  at  its  face  value  the  obvious  inconsistency 
between  Hobbes’s  plea  for  security  of  the  individual  and  the  inherent  in- 
stability of  his  Commonwealth.  Here  again  he  tries  to  persuade,  to  appeal 
to  certain  basic  instincts  for  security  which  he  knew  well  enough  could  sur- 
vive in  the  subjects  of  the  Leviathan  only  in  the  form  of  absolute  submission 
to  the  power  which  “over-awes  them  all,”  that  is,  in  an  all-pervading,  over- 
whelming fear — not  exactly  the  basic  sentiment  of  a safe  man.  What  Hobbes 
actually  starts  from  is  an  unmatched  insight  into  the  political  needs  of  the 
new  social  body  of  the  rising  bourgeoisie,  whose  fundamental  belief  in  an 
unending  process  of  property  accumulation  was  about  to  eliminate  all  indi- 
vidual safety.  Hobbes  drew  the  necessary  conclusions  from  social  and  eco- 
nomic behavior  patterns  when  he  proposed  his  revolutionary  changes  in 
political  constitution.  He  outlined  the  only  new  body  politic  which  could 

38  The  presently  popular  liberal  notion  of  a World  Government  is  based,  like  all 
liberal  notions  of  political  power,  on  the  same  concept  of  individuals  submitting  to 
a central  authority  which  “overawes  them  all,”  except  that  nations  are  now  taking  the 
place  of  individuals.  The  World  Government  is  to  overcome  and  eliminate  authentic 
politics,  that  is,  different  peoples  getting  along  with  each  other  in  the  full  force  of 
their  power. 



correspond  to  the  new  needs  and  interests  of  a new  class.  What  he  actually 
achieved  was  a picture  of  man  as  he  ought  to  become  and  ought  to  behave 
if  he  wanted  to  fit  into  the  coming  bourgeois  society. 

Hobbes’s  insistence  on  power  as  the  motor  of  all  things  human  and  divine 
(even  God’s  reign  over  men  is  “derived  not  from  Creating  them  . . . but 
from  the  Irresistible  Power”)  sprang  from  the  theoretically  indisputable 
proposition  that  a never-ending  accumulation  of  property  must  be  based  on 
a never-ending  accumulation  of  power.  The  philosophical  correlative  of  the 
inherent  instability  of  a community  founded  on  power  is  the  image  of  an 
endless  process  of  history  which,  in  order  to  be  consistent  with  the  constant 
growth  of  power,  inexorably  catches  up  with  individuals,  peoples,  and 
finally  all  mankind.  The  limitless  process  of  capital  accumulation  needs  the 
political  structure  of  so  “unlimited  a Power”  that  it  can  protect  growing 
property  by  constantly  growing  more  powerful.  Granted  the  fundamental 
dynamism  of  the  new  social  class,  it  is  perfectly  true  that  “he  cannot  assure 
the  power  and  means  to  live  well,  which  he  hath  at  present,  without  the 
acquisition  of  more.”  The  consistency  of  this  conclusion  is  in  no  way  altered 
by  the  remarkable  fact  that  for  some  three  hundred  years  there  was  neither 
a sovereign  who  would  “convert  this  Truth  of  Speculation  into  the  Utility  of 
Practice,”  nor  a bourgeoisie  politically  conscious  and  economically  mature 
enough  openly  to  adopt  Hobbes’s  philosopny  of  power. 

This  process  of  never-ending  accumulation  of  power  necessary  for  the 
protection  of  a never-ending  accumulation  of  capital  determined  the  “pro- 
gressive” ideology  of  the  late  nineteenth  century  and  foreshadowed  the  rise 
of  imperialism.  Not  the  naive  delusion  of  a limitless  growth  of  property,  but 
the  realization  that  power  accumulation  was  the  only  guarantee  for  the  sta- 
bility of  so-called  economic  laws,  made  progress  irresistible.  The  eighteenth- 
century  notion  of  progress,  as  conceived  in  pre-revolutionary  France,  in- 
tended criticism  of  the  past  to  be  a means  of  mastering  the  present  and  con- 
trolling the  future;  progress  culminated  in  the  emancipation  of  man.  But 
this  notion  had  little  to  do  with  the  endless  progress  of  bourgeois  society, 
which  not  only  did  not  want  the  liberty  and  autonomy  of  man,  but  was  ready 
to  sacrifice  everything  and  everybody  to  supposedly  superhuman  laws  of 
history.  “What  we  call  progress  is  [the]  wind  . . . [that]  drives  [the  angel 
of  history]  irresistibly  into  the  future  to  which  he  turns  his  back  while  the 
pile  of  ruins  before  him  towers  to  the  skies.”  39  Only  in  Marx’s  dream  of  a 
classless  society  which,  in  Joyce’s  words,  was  to  awaken  mankind  from  the 
nightmare  of  history,  does  a last,  though  utopian,  trace  of  the  eighteenth- 
century  concept  appear. 

39  Walter  Benjamin,  “Ober  den  Begriff  der  Geschichte,”  lnstitut  fiir  Sozialjorschung, 
New  York,  1942,  mimeographed. — The  imperialists  themselves  were  quite  aware  of 
the  implications  of  their  concept  of  progress.  Said  the  very  representative  author  from 
the  Civil  Services  in  India  who  wrote  under  the  pseudonym  A.  Carthill:  “One  must 
always  feel  sorry  for  those  persons  who  are  crushed  by  the  triumphal  car  of  progress” 
{op.  cit.,  p.  209). 



The  imperialist-minded  businessman,  whom  the  stars  annoyed  because  he 
could  not  annex  them,  realized  that  power  organized  for  its  own  sake  would 
beget  more  power.  When  the  accumulation  of  capital  had  reached  its  natural, 
national  limits,  the  bourgeoisie  understood  that  only  with  an  “expansion  is 
everything”  ideology,  and  only  with  a corresponding  power-accumulating 
process,  would  it  be  possible  to  set  the  old  motor  into  motion  again.  At  the 
same  moment,  however,  when  it  seemed  as  though  the  true  principle  of  per- 
petual motion  had  been  discovered,  the  specifically  optimistic  mood  of  the 
progress  ideology  was  shaken.  Not  that  anybody  began  to  doubt  the  irre- 
sistibility of  the  process  itself,  but  many  people  began  to  see  what  had 
frightened  Cecil  Rhodes:  that  the  human  condition  and  the  limitations  of 
the  globe  were  a serious  obstacle  to  a process  that  was  unable  to  stop  and 
to  stabilize,  and  could  therefore  only  begin  a series  of  destructive  catas- 
trophes once  it  had  reached  these  limits. 

In  the  imperialistic  epoch  a philosophy  of  power  became  the  philosophy 
of  the  elite,  who  quickly  discovered  and  were  quite  ready  to  admit  that  the 
thirst  for  power  could  be  quenched  only  through  destruction.  This  was  the 
essential  cause  of  their  nihilism  (especially  conspicuous  in  France  at  the 
turn,  and  in  Germany  in  the  twenties,  of  this  century)  which  replaced  the 
superstition  of  progress  with  the  equally  vulgar  superstition  of  doom,  and 
preached  automatic  annihilation  with  the  same  enthusiasm  that  the  fanatics 
of  automatic  progress  had  preached  the  irresistibility  of  economic  laws.  It 
had  taken  Hobbes,  the  great  idolator  of  Success,  three  centuries  to  succeed. 
This  was  partly  because  the  French  Revolution,  with  its  conception  of  man  as 
lawmaker  and  citoyen,  had  almost  succeeded  in  preventing  the  bourgeoisie 
from  fully  developing  its  notion  of  history  as  a necessary  process.  But  it 
was  also  partly  because  of  the  revolutionary  implications  of  the  Common- 
wealth, its  fearless  breach  with  Western  tradition,  which  Hobbes  did  not  fail 
to  point  out. 

Every  man  and  every  thought  which  does  not  serve  and  does  not  conform 
to  the  ultimate  purpose  of  a machine  whose  only  purpose  is  the  generation 
and  accumulation  of  power  is  a dangerous  nuisance.  Hobbes  judged  that  the 
books  of  the  “ancient  Greeks  and  Romans”  were  as  “prejudicial”  as  the 
teaching  of  a Christian  “Summum  bonum  ...  as  [it]  is  spoken  of  in  the 
Books  of  the  old  Morall  Philosophers”  or  the  doctrine  that  “whatsoever  a 
man  does  against  his  Conscience,  is  Sinne”  and  that  “Lawes  are  the  Rules  of 
Just  and  Unjust.”  Hobbes’s  deep  distrust  of  the  whole  Western  tradition  of 
political  thought  will  not  surprise  us  if  we  remember  that  he  wanted  nothing 
more  nor  less  than  the  justification  of  Tyranny  which,  though  it  has  occurred 
many  times  in  Western  history,  has  never  been  honored  with  a philosophical 
foundation.  That  the  Leviathan  actually  amounts  to  a permanent  govern- 
ment of  tyranny,  Hobbes  is  proud  to  admit:  “the  name  of  Tyranny  signi- 
fied nothing  more  nor  lesse  than  the  name  of  Soveraignty  . . . ; I think  the 
toleration  of  a professed  hatred  of  Tyranny,  is  a Toleration  of  hatred  to 
Commonwealth  in  generall.  . . 

Since  Hobbes  was  a philosopher,  he  could  already  detect  in  the  rise  of  the 



bourgeoisie  all  those  antitraditionalist  qualities  of  the  new  class  which  would 
take  more  than  three  hundred  years  to  develop  fully.  His  Leviathan  was  not 
concerned  with  idle  speculation  about  new  political  principles  or  the  old 
search  for  reason  as  it  governs  the  community  of  men;  it  was  strictly  a 
“reckoning  of  the  consequences”  that  follow  from  the  rise  of  a new  class  in 
society  whose  existence  is  essentially  tied  up  with  property  as  a dynamic, 
new  property-producing  device.  The  so-called  accumulation  of  capital  which 
gave  birth  to  the  bourgeoisie  changed  the  very  conception  of  property  and 
wealth:  they  were  no  longer  considered  to  be  the  results  of  accumulation  and 
acquisition  but  their  beginnings;  wealth  became  a never-ending  process  of 
getting  wealthier.  The  classification  of  the  bourgeoisie  as  an  owning  class 
is  only  superficially  correct,  for  a characteristic  of  this  class  has  been  that 
everybody  could  belong  to  it  who  conceived  of  life  as  a process  of  per- 
petually becoming  wealthier,  and  considered  money  as  something  sacrosanct 
which  under  no  circumstances  should  be  a mere  commodity  for  con- 

Property  by  itself,  however,  is  subject  to  use  and  consumption  and  there- 
fore diminishes  constantly.  The  most  radical  and  the  only  secure  form  of 
possession  is  destruction,  for  only  what  we  have  destroyed  is  safely  and  for- 
ever ours.  Property  owners  who  do  not  consume  but  strive  to  enlarge  their 
holdings  continually  find  one  very  inconvenient  limitation,  the  unfortunate 
fact  that  men  must  die.  Death  is  the  real  reason  why  property  and  acquisition 
can  never  become  a true  political  principle.  A social  system  based  essentially 
on  property  cannot  possibly  proceed  toward  anything  but  the  final  destruc- 
tion of  all  property.  The  finiteness  of  personal  life  is  as  serious  a challenge 
to  property  as  the  foundation  of  society,  as  the  limits  of  the  globe  are  a chal- 
lenge to  expansion  as  the  foundation  of  the  body  politic.  By  transcending  the 
limits  of  human  life  in  planning  for  an  automatic  continuous  growth  of 
wealth  beyond  all  personal  needs  and  possibilities  of  consumption,  indi- 
vidual property  is  made  a public  affair  and  taken  out  of  the  sphere  of  mere 
private  life.  Private  interests  which  by  their  very  nature  are  temporary,  lim- 
ited by  man’s  natural  span  of  life,  can  now  escape  into  the  sphere  of  public 
affairs  and  borrow  from  them  that  infinite  length  of  time  which  is  needed 
for  continuous  accumulation.  This  seems  to  create  a society  very  similar  to 
that  of  the  ants  and  bees  where  “the  Common  good  differeth  not  from  the 
Private;  and  being  by  nature  enclined  to  their  private,  they  procure  thereby 
the  common  benefit.” 

Since,  however,  men  are  neither  ants  nor  bees,  the  whole  thing  is  a delu- 
sion. Public  life  takes  on  the  deceptive  aspect  of  a total  of  private  interests 
as  though  these  interests  could  create  a new  quality  through  sheer  addition. 
All  the  so-called  liberal  concepts  of  politics  (that  is,  all  the  pre-imperialist 
political  notions  of  the  bourgeoisie) — such  as  unlimited  competition  regu- 
lated by  a secret  balance  which  comes  mysteriously  from  the  sum  total  of 
competing  activities,  the  pursuit  of  “enlightened  self-interest”  as  an  adequate 
political  virtue,  unlimited  progress  inherent  in  the  mere  succession  of  events 
— have  this  in  common:  they  simply  add  up  private  lives  and  personal  be- 



havior  patterns  and  present  the  sum  as  laws  of  history,  or  economics,  or 
politics.  Liberal  concepts,  however,  while  they  express  the  bourgeoisie’s 
instinctive  distrust  of  and  its  innate  hostility  to  public  affairs,  arc  only  a 
temporary  compromise  between  the  old  standards  of  Western  culture  and  the 
new  class’s  faith  in  property  as  a dynamic,  self-moving  principle.  The  old 
standards  give  way  to  the  extent  that  automatically  growing  wealth  actually 
replaces  political  action. 

Hobbes  was  the  true,  though  never  fully  recognized,  philosopher  of  the 
bourgeoisie  because  he  realized  that  acqu  sition  of  wealth  conceived  as  a 
never-ending  process  can  be  guaranteed  only  by  the  seizure  of  political  power, 
for  the  accumulating  process  must  sooner  or  later  force  open  all  existing 
territorial  limits.  He  foresaw  that  a society  which  had  entered  the  path  of 
never-ending  acquisition  had  to  engineer  a dynamic  political  organization 
capable  of  a corresponding  never-ending  process  of  power  generation.  He 
even,  through  sheer  force  of  imagination,  was  able  to  outline  the  main  psy- 
chological traits  of  the  new  type  of  man  who  would  fit  into  such  a society 
and  its  tyrannical  body  politic.  He  foresaw  the  necessary  idolatry  of  power 
itself  by  this  new  human  type,  that  he  would  be  flattered  at  being  called  a 
power-thirsty  animal,  although  actually  society  would  force  him  to  surrender 
all  his  natural  forces,  his  virtues  and  his  vices,  and  would  make  him  the  poor 
meek  little  fellow  who  has  not  even  the  right  to  rise  against  tyranny,  and 
who,  far  from  striving  for  power,  submits  to  any  existing  government  and 
does  not  stir  even  when  his  best  friend  falls  an  innocent  victim  to  an  incom- 
prehensible raison  d'etat. 

For  a Commonwealth  based  on  the  accumulated  and  monopolized  power 
of  all  its  individual  members  necessarily  leaves  each  person  powerless,  de- 
prived of  his  natural  and  human  capacities.  It  leaves  him  degraded  into  a 
cog  in  the  power-accumulating  machine,  free  to  console  himself  with  sub- 
lime thoughts  about  the  ultimate  destiny  of  this  machine,  which  itself  is 
constructed  in  such  a way  that  it  can  devour  the  globe  simply  by  following 
its  own  inherent  law. 

The  ultimate  destructive  purpose  of  this  Commonwealth  is  at  least  in- 
dicated in  the  philosophical  interpretation  of  human  equality  as  an  “equality 
of  ability  to  kill.  Living  with  all  other  nations  “in  the  condition  of  a per- 
petual! war,  and  upon  the  confines  of  battle,  with  their  frontiers  armed, 
and  canons  planted  against  their  neighbours  round  about,”  it  has  no  other 
law  of  conduct  but  the  “most  conducing  to  [its]  benefit”  and  will  gradually 
devour  weaker  structures  until  it  comes  to  a last  war  “which  provideth  for 
every  man,  by  Victory,  or  Death.” 

By  Victory  or  Death,”  the  Leviathan  can  indeed  overcome  all  political 
limitations  that  go  with  the  existence  of  other  peoples  and  can  envelop 
the  whole  earth  in  its  tyranny.  But  when  the  last  war  has  come  and  every 
man  has  been  provided  for,  no  ultimate  peace  is  established  on  earth:  the 
power-accumulating  machine,  without  which  continual  expansion  would  not 
have  been  achieved,  needs  more  material  to  devour  in  its  never-ending 
process.  If  the  last  victorious  Commonwealth  cannot  proceed  to  “annex  the 


planets,”  it  can  only  proceed  to  destroy  itself  in  order  to  begin  anew  the 
never-ending  process  of  power  generation. 

hi:  The  Alliance  Between  Mob  and  Capital 

when  imperialism  entered  the  scene  of  politics  with  the  scramble  for  Africa 
in  the  eighties,  it  was  promoted  by  businessmen,  opposed  fiercely  by  the 
governments  in  power,  and  welcomed  by  a surprisingly  large  section  of  the 
educated  classes.40  To  the  last  it  seemed  to  be  God-sent,  a cure  for  all  evils, 
an  easy  panacea  for  all  conflicts.  And  it  is  true  that  imperialism  in  a sense 
did  not  disappoint  these  hopes.  It  gave  a new  lease  on  life  to  political  and 
social  structures  which  were  quite  obviously  threatened  by  new  social  and 
political  forces  and  which,  under  other  circumstances,  without  the  inter- 
ference of  imperialist  developments,  would  hardly  have  needed  two  world 
wars  to  disappear. 

As  matters  stood,  imperialism  spirited  away  all  troubles  and  produced 
that  deceptive  feeling  of  security,  so  universal  in  pre-war  Europe,  which 
deceived  all  but  the  most  sensitive  minds.  Peguy  in  France  and  Chesterton 
in  England  knew  instinctively  that  they  lived  in  a world  of  hollow  pretense 
and  that  its  stability  was  the  greatest  pretense  of  all.  Until  everything  began 
to  crumble,  the  stability  of  obviously  outdated  political  structures  was  a 
fact,  and  their  stubborn  unconcerned  longevity  seemed  to  give  the  lie  to 
those  who  felt  the  ground  tremble  under  their  feet.  The  solution  of  the  riddle 
was  imperialism.  The  answer  to  the  fateful  question:  why  did  the  European 
comity  of  nations  allow  this  evil  to  spread  until  everything  was  destroyed, 
the  good  as  well  as  the  bad,  is  that  all  governments  knew  very  well  that  their 
countries  were  secretly  disintegrating,  that  the  body  politic  was  being  de- 
stroyed from  within,  and  that  they  lived  on  borrowed  time. 

Innocently  enough,  expansion  appeared  first  as  the  outlet  for  excess 
capital  production  and  offered  a remedy,  capital  export.41  The  tremendously 
increased  wealth  produced  by  capitalist  production  under  a social  system 
1 based  on  maldistribution  had  resulted  in  “oversaving” — that  is,  the  accu- 

40  “The  Services  offer  the  cleanest  and  most  natural  support  to  an  aggressive  foreign 
policy;  expansion  of  the  empire  appeals  powerfully  to  the  aristocracy  and  the  pro- 
fessional classes  by  offering  new  and  ever-growing  fields  for  the  honorable  and 
profitable  employment  of  their  sons”  (J.  A.  Hobson,  “Capitalism  and  Imperialism  in 
South  Africa,”  op.  cit.).  It  was  “above  all  . . . patriotic  professors  and  publicists 
regardless  of  political  affiliation  and  unmindful  of  personal  economic  interest”  who 
sponsored  “the  outward  imperialistic  thrusts  of  the  ’70ies  and  early  ’80ies”  (Hayes, 
op.  cit.,  p.  220). 

41  For  this  and  the  following  see  J.  A.  Hobson,  Imperialism,  who  as  early  as  1905 
gave  a masterly  analysis  of  the  driving  economic  forces  and  motives  as  well  as  of 
some  of  its  political  implications.  When,  in  1938,  his  early  study  was  republished, 
Hobson  could  rightly  state  in  his  introduction  to  an  unchanged  text  that  his  book  was 
real  proof  “that  the  chief  perils  and  disturbances  ...  of  today  . . . were  all  latent 
and  discernible  in  the  world  of  a generation  ago.  ...” 



mulation  of  capital  which  was  condemned  to  idleness  within  the  existing 
national  capacity  for  production  and  consumption.  This  money  was  actually 
superfluous,  needed  by  nobody  though  owned  by  a growing  class  of  some- 
bodies. The  ensuing  crises  and  depressions  during  the  decades  preceding 
the  era  of  imperialism  42  had  impressed  upon  the  capitalists  the  thought 
that  their  whole  economic  system  of  production  depended  upon  a supply 
and  demand  that  from  now  on  must  come  from  “outside  of  capitalist  so- 
ciety/' 43  Such  supply  and  demand  came  from  inside  the  nation,  so  long  as 
the  capitalist  system  did  not  control  all  its  classes  together  with  its  entire 
productive  capacity.  When  capitalism  had  pervaded  the  entire  economic 
structure  and  all  social  strata  had  come  into  the  orbit  of  its  production  and 
consumption  system,  capitalists  clearly  had  to  decide  either  to  see  the  whole 
system  collapse  or  to  find  new  markets,  that  is,  to  penetrate  new  countries 
which  were  not  yet  subject  to  capitalism  and  therefore  could  provide  a 
new  noncapitalistic  supply  and  demand. 

The  decisive  point  about  the  depressions  of  the  sixties  and  seventies,  which 
initiated  the  era  of  imperialism,  was  that  they  forced  the  bourgeoisie  to 
realize  for  the  first  time  that  the  original  sin  of  simple  robbery,  which  cen- 
turies ago  had  made  possible  the  “original  accumulation  of  capital”  (Marx) 
and  had  started  all  further  accumulation,  had  eventually  to  be  repeated  lest 
the  motor  of  accumulation  suddenly  die  down.44  In  the  face  of  this  danger, 
which  threatened  not  only  the  bourgeoisie  but  the  whole  nation  with  a 
catastrophic  breakdown  in  production,  capitalist  producers  understood  that 
the  forms  and  laws  of  their  production  system  “from  the  beginning  had 
been  calculated  for  the  whole  earth.”  45 

42  The  obvious  connection  between  the  severe  crises  in  the  sixties  in  England  and 
the  sevenlies  on  the  Continent  and  imperialism  is  mentioned  in  Hayes,  op.  cit.,  in  a 
footnote  only  (on  p.  219),  and  in  Schuyler,  op.  cit.,  who  believes  that  “a  revival  of 
interest  in  emigration  was  an  important  factor  in  the  beginnings  of  the  imperial 
movement0  and  that  this  interest  had  been  caused  by  “a  serious  depression  in  British 
trade  and  industry”  toward  the  close  of  the  sixties  (p.  280).  Schuyler  also  describes 
at  some  length  the  strong  “anti-imperial  sentiment  of  the  mid-Victorian  era.”  Un- 
fortunately, Schuyler  makes  no  differentiation  between  the  Commonwealth  and  the 
Fmpirc  proper,  although  the  discussion  of  pre-imperialist  material  might  easily  have 
suggested  such  a differentiation. 

4 Rosa  Luxemburg,  Die  Akkumulation  des  Kapitals,  Berlin,  1923,  p.  273. 

44  Rudolf  Hilfcrding,  Das  Finanzkapital , Wien,  1910,  p.  401,  mentions — but  does 
not  analyze  the  implications  of — the  fact  that  imperialism  “suddenly  uses  again  the 
methods  of  the  original  accumulation  of  capitalistic  wealth.” 

41  According  to  Rosa  Luxemburg’s  brilliant  insight  into  the  political  structure  of 
imperialism  (op.  cit.,  pp.  273  ff.,  pp.  361  ff.) , the  “historical  process  of  the  accumu- 
lation of  capital  depends  in  all  its  aspects  upon  the  existence  of  noncapitalist  social 
strata.”  so  that  “imperialism  is  the  political  expression  of  the  accumulation  of  capital 
in  its  competition  for  the  possession  of  the  remainders  of  the  noncapitalistic  world.” 
This  essential  dependence  of  capitalism  upon  a noncapitalistic  world  lies  at  the  basis 
of  all  other  aspects  of  imperialism,  which  then  may  be  explained  as  the  results  of 
oversaving  and  maldistribution  (Hobson,  op.  cit.),  as  the  result  of  overproduction 
and  the  consequent  need  for  new  markets  (Lenin,  Imperialism,  the  Last  Stage  of 
Capitalism,  1917),  as  the  result  of  an  undersupply  of  raw  material  (Hayes,  op.  cit.), 
or  as  capital  export  in  order  to  equalize  the  national  profit  rate  (Hilferding,  op.  cit.). 



The  first  reaction  to  the  saturated  home  market,  lack  of  raw  materials, 
and  growing  crises,  was  export  of  capital.  The  owners  of  superfluous  wealth 
first  tried  foreign  investment  without  expansion  and  without  political  con- 
trol, which  resulted  in  an  unparalleled  orgy  of  swindles,  financial  scandals, 
and  stock-market  speculation,  all  the  more  alarming  since  foreign  invest- 
ments grew  much  more  rapidly  than  domestic  ones.46  Big  money  resulting 
from  oversaving  paved  the  way  for  little  money,  the  product  of  the  little 
fellow’s  work.  Domestic  enterprises,  in  order  to  keep  pace  with  high  profits 
from  foreign  investment,  turned  likewise  to  fraudulent  methods  and  attracted 
an  increasing  number  of  people  who,  in  the  hope  of  miraculous  returns, 
threw  their  money  out  of  the  window.  The  Panama  scandal  in  France,  the 
Griindungsschwindel  in  Germany  and  Austria,  became  classic  examples. 
Tremendous  losses  resulted  from  the  promises  of  tremendous  profits.  The 
owners  of  little  money  lost  so  much  so  quickly  that  the  owners  of  superfluous 
big  capital  soon  saw  themselves  left  alone  in  what  was,  in  a sense,  a battle- 
field. Having  failed  to  change  the  whole  society  into  a community  of 
gamblers  they  were  again  superfluous,  excluded  from  the  normal  process 
of  production  to  which,  after  some  turmoil,  all  other  classes  returned 
quietly,  if  somewhat  impoverished  and  embittered.47 

Export  of  money  and  foreign  investment  as  such  are  not  imperialism  and 
do  not  necessarily  lead  to  expansion  as  a political  device.  As  long  as  the 
owners  of  superfluous  capital  were  content  with  investing  “large  portions 
of  their  property  in  foreign  lands,”  even  if  this  tendency  ran  “counter  to 
all  past  traditions  of  nationalism,”  48  they  merely  confirmed  their  alienation 
from  the  national  body  on  which  they  were  parasites  anyway.  Only  when 
they  demanded  government  protection  of  their  investments  (after  the  initial 
stage  of  swindle  had  opened  their  eyes  to  the  possible  use  of  politics  against 
the  risks  of  gambling)  did  they  re-enter  the  life  of  the  nation.  In  this  appeal, 
however,  they  followed  the  established  tradition  of  bourgeois  society,  always 
to  consider  political  institutions  exclusively  as  an  instrument  for  the  pro- 
tection of  individual  property.49  Only  the  fortunate  coincidence  of  the  rise 

46  According  to  Hilferding,  op.  cit.,  p.  409,  note,  the  British  income  from  foreign 
investment  increased  ninefold  while  national  income  doubled  from  1865  to  1898. 
He  assumes  a similar  though  probably  less  marked  increase  for  German  and  French 
foreign  investments. 

47  For  France  see  George  Lachapelle,  Les  Finances  de  la  Troisieme  Republique, 
Paris,  1937,  and  D.  W.  Brogan,  The  Development  of  Modern  France , New  York, 
1941.  For  Germany,  compare  the  interesting  contemporary  testimonies  like  Max 
Wirth,  Geschichte  der  Handelskrisen,  1873,  chapter  15,  and  A.  Schaeffle,  “Der  ‘grosse 
Boersenkrach’  des  Jahres  1873”  in  Zeitschrift  fur  die  gesamte  Staatswissenschaft, 
1874,  Band  30. 

48  J.  A.  Hobson,  "Capitalism  and  Imperialism,”  op.  cit . 

49  See  Hilferding,  op.  cit.,  p.  406.  "Hence  the  cry  for  strong  state  power  by  all  capi- 
talists with  vested  interests  in  foreign  countries.  . . . Exported  capital  feels  safest 
when  the  state  power  of  its  own  country  rules  the  new  domain  completely.  ...  Its 
profits  should  be  guaranteed  by  the  state  if  possible.  Thus,  exportation  of  capital 
favors  an  imperialist  policy.”  P.  423:  “It  is  a matter  of  course  that  the  attitude  of 
the  bourgeoisie  toward  the  state  undergoes  a complete  change  when  the  political 



of  a new  class  of  property  holders  and  the  industrial  revolution  had  made 
the  bourgeoisie  producers  and  stimulators  of  production.  As  long  as  it  ful- 
filled this  basic  function  in  modern  society,  which  is  essentially  a community 
of  producers,  its  wealth  had  an  important  function  for  the  nation  as  a whole. 
The  owners  of  superfluous  capital  were  the  first  section  of  the  class  to  want 
profits  without  fulfilling  some  real  social  function  even  if  it  was  the  func- 
tion of  an  exploiting  producer — and  whom,  consequently,  no  police  could 
ever  have  saved  from  the  wrath  of  the  people. 

Expansion  then  was  an  escape  not  only  for  superfluous  capital.  More 
important,  it  protected  its  owners  against  the  menacing  prospect  of  remain- 
ing entirely  superfluous  and  parasitical.  It  saved  the  bourgeoisie  from  the 
consequences  of  maldistribution  and  revitalized  its  concept  of  ownership 
at  a time  when  wealth  could  no  longer  be  used  as  a factor  in  production 
within  the  national  framework  and  had  come  into  conflict  with  the  produc- 
tion ideal  of  the  community  as  a whole. 

Older  than  die  superfluous  wealth  was  another  by-product  of  capitalist 
production:  the  human  debris  that  every  crisis,  following  invariably  upon 
each  period  of  industrial  growth,  eliminated  permanently  from  producing 
society.  Men  who  had  become  permanently  idle  were  as  superfluous  to  the 
community  as  the  owners  of  superfluous  wealth.  That  they  were  an  actual 
menace  to  society  had  been  recognized  throughout  the  nineteenth  century 
and  their  export  had  helped  to  populate  the  dominions  of  Canada  and 
Australia  as  well  as  the  United  States.  The  new  fact  in  the  imperialist  era 
is  that  these  two  superfluous  forces,  superfluous  capital  and  superfluous 
working  pow'er,  joined  hands  and  left  the  country  together.  The  concept 
of  expansion,  the  export  of  government  power  and  annexation  of  every 
territory  in  which  nationals  had  invested  either  their  wealth  or  their  work, 
seemed  the  only  alternative  to  increasing  losses  in  wealth  and  population. 
Imperialism  and  its  idea  of  unlimited  expansion  seemed  to  offer  a permanent 
remedy  for  a permanent  evil.50 

Ironically  enough,  the  first  country  in  which  superfluous  wealth  and 

power  of  the  state  becomes  a competitive  instrument  for  the  finance  capital  in  the 
world  market.  The  bourgeoisie  had  been  hostile  to  the  state  in  its  fight  against  eco- 
nomic mercantilism  and  political  absolutism.  . . . Theoretically  at  least,  economic 
life  was  to  be  completely  free  of  state  intervention;  the  state  was  to  coniine  itself 
politically  to  the  safeguarding  of  security  and  the  establishment  of  civil  equality.” 
P.  426:  ‘‘However,  the  desire  for  an  expansionist  policy  causes  a revolutionary  change 
in  the  mentality  of  the  bourgeoisie.  It  ceases  to  be  pacifist  and  humanist.”  P.  470: 
“Socially,  expansion  is  a vital  condition  for  the  preservation  of  capitalist  society;  eco- 
nomically, it  is  the  condition  for  the  preservation  of,  and  temporary  increase  in,  the 
profit  rale.” 

&0  These  motives  were  especially  outspoken  in  German  imperialism.  Among  the 
first  activities  of  the  Alldeutsche  Verband  (founded  in  1891)  were  efforts  to  prevent 
German  emigrants  from  changing  their  citizenship,  and  the  first  imperialist  speech  of 
William  II,  on  the  occasion  of  the  twenty-fifth  anniversary  of  the  foundation  of  the 
Reich,  contained  the  following  typical  passage:  “The  German  Empire  has  become  a 
World  Empire.  Thousands  of  our  compatriots  live  everywhere,  in  distant  parts  of  the 
earth.  . . . Gentlemen,  it  is  your  solemn  duty  to  help  me  unite  this  greater  German 
Empire  with  our  native  country.”  Compare  also  J.  A.  Froude’s  statement  in  note  10. 



superfluous  men  were  brought  together  was  itself  becoming  superfluous. 
South  Africa  had  been  in  British  possession  since  the  beginning  of  the  cen- 
tury because  it  assured  the  maritime  road  to  India.  The  opening  of  the 
Suez  Canal,  however,  and  the  subsequent  administrative  conquest  of  Egypt, 
lessened  considerably  the  importance  of  the  old  trade  station  on  the  Cape. 
The  British  would,  in  all  probability,  have  withdrawn  from  Africa  just  as 
all  European  nations  had  done  whenever  their  possessions  and  trade  in- 
terests in  India  were  liquidated. 

The  particular  irony  and,  in  a sense,  symbolical  circumstance  in  the  un- 
expected development  of  South  Africa  into  the  “culture-bed  of  Imperial- 
ism” 61  lies  in  the  very  nature  of  its  sudden  attractiveness  when  it  had  lost 
all  value  for  the  Empire  proper:  diamond  fields  were  discovered  in  the 
seventies  and  large  gold  mines  in  the  eighties.  The  new  desire  for  profit-at- 
any-price  converged  for  the  first  time  with  the  old  fortune  hunt.  Prospectors, 
adventurers,  and  the  scum  of  the  big  cities  emigrated  to  the  Dark  Continent 
along  with  capital  from  industrially  developed  countries.  From  now  on,  the 
mob,  begotten  by  the  monstrous  accumulation  of  capital,  accompanied  its 
begetter  on  those  voyages  of  discovery  where  nothing  was  discovered  but 
new  possibilities  for  investment.  The  owners  of  superfluous  wealth  were  the 
only  men  who  could  use  the  superfluous  men  who  came  from  the  four 
corners  of  the  earth.  Together  they  established  the  first  paradise  of  parasites 
whose  lifeblood  was  gold.  Imperialism,  the  product  of  superfluous  money 
and  superfluous  men,  began  its  startling  career  by  producing  the  most 
superfluous  and  unreal  goods. 

It  may  still  be  doubtful  whether  the  panacea  of  expansion  would  have 
become  so  great  a temptation  for  non-imperialists  if  it  had  offered  its 
dangerous  solutions  only  for  those  superfluous  forces  which,  in  any  case, 
were  already  outside  the  nation’s  body  corporate.  The  complicity  of  all 
parliamentary  parties  in  imperialist  programs  is  a matter  of  record.  The 
history  of  the  British  Labor  Party  in  this  respect  is  an  almost  unbroken 
chain  of  justifications  of  Cecil  Rhodes’  early  prediction:  “The  workmen 
find  that  although  the  Americans  are  exceedingly  fond  of  them,  and  are 
just  now  exchanging  the  most  brotherly  sentiments  with  them  yet  are  shutting 
out  their  goods.  The  workmen  also  find  that  Russia,  France  and  Germany 
locally  are  doing  the  same,  and  the  workmen  see  that  if  they  do  not  look 
out  they  will  have  no  place  in  the  world  to  trade  at  all.  And  so  the  workmen 
have  become  Imperialist  and  the  Liberal  Party  are  following.”  62  In  Ger- 
many, the  liberals  (and  not  the  Conservative  Party)  were  the  actual  pro- 
moters of  that  famous  naval  policy  which  contributed  so  heavily  to  the  out- 
break of  the  first  World  War.63  The  Socialist  Party  wavered  between  active 

61  E.  H.  Damce,  The  Victorian  Illusion,  London,  1928,  p.  164:  ‘‘Africa,  which  had 
been  included  neither  in  the  itinerary  of  Saxondom  nor  in  the  professional  philosophers 
of  imperial  history,  became  the  culture-bed  of  British  imperialism/’ 

62  Quoted  from  Millin,  op.  cit. 

63  “The  liberals,  and  not  the  Right  of  Parliament,  were  the  supporters  of  the  naval 
policy.”  Alfred  von  Tirpitz,  Erinnerungen,  1919.  See  also  Daniel  Frymann  (pseud,  for 
Heinrich  Class),  Wenn  ich  der  Kaiser  war , 1912:  “The  true  imperial  party  is  the  Na- 



support  of  the  imperialist  naval  policy  (it  repeatedly  voted  funds  for  the 
building  of  a German  navy  after  1906)  and  complete  neglect  of  all  ques- 
tions of  foreign  policy.  Occasional  warnings  against  the  Lumpenproletariat, 
and  the  possible  bribing  of  sections  of  the  working  class  with  crumbs  from 
the  imperialist  table,  did  not  lead  to  a deeper  understanding  of  the  great 
appeal  which  the  imperialist  programs  had  to  the  rank  and  file  of  the  party. 
In  Marxist  terms  the  new  phenomenon  of  an  alliance  between  mob  and 
capital  seemed  so  unnatural,  so  obviously  in  conflict  with  the  doctrine  of 
class  struggle,  that  the  actual  dangers  of  the  imperialist  attempt — to  divide 
mankind  into  master  races  and  slave  races,  into  higher  and  lower  breeds, 
into  colored  peoples  and  white  men,  all  of  which  were  attempts  to  unify 
the  people  on  the  basis  of  the  mob— were  completely  overlooked.  Even  the 
breakdown  of  international  solidarity  at  the  outbreak  of  the  first  World  War 
did  not  disturb  the  complacency  of  the  socialists  and  their  faith  in  the 
proletariat  as  such.  Socialists  were  still  probing  the  economic  laws  of  im- 
perialism when  imperialists  had  long  since  stopped  obeying  them,  when  in 
overseas  countries  these  laws  had  been  sacrificed  to  the  “imperial  factor’1 
or  to  the  “race  factor,”  and  when  only  a few  elderly  gentlemen  in  high 
finance  still  believed  in  the  inalienable  rights  of  the  profit  rate. 

The  curious  weakness  of  popular  opposition  to  imperialism,  the  numerous 
inconsistencies  and  outright  broken  promises  of  liberal  statesmen,  frequently 
ascribed  to  opportunism  or  bribery,  have  other  and  deeper  causes.  Neither 
opportunism  nor  bribery  could  have  persuaded  a man  like  Gladstone  to 
break  his  promise,  as  the  leader  of  the  Liberal  Party,  to  evacuate  Egypt 
when  he  became  Prime  Minister.  Half  consciously  and  hardly  articulately, 
these  men  shared  with  the  people  the  conviction  that  the  national  body 
itself  was  so  deeply  split  into  classes,  that  class  struggle  was  so  universal  a 
characteristic  of  modern  political  life,  that  the  very  cohesion  of  the  nation 
was  jeopardized.  Expansion  again  appeared  as  a lifesaver,  if  and  insofar  as 
it  could  provide  a common  interest  for  the  nation  as  a whole,  and  it  is  mainly 
for  this  reason  that  imperialists  were  allowed  to ‘become  “parasites  upon 
patriotism.”  64 

Partly,  of  course,  such  hopes  still  belonged  with  the  old  vicious  practice  of 
“healing”  domestic  conflicts  with  foreign  adventures.  The  difference,  how- 
ever, is  marked.  Adventures  are  by  their  very  nature  limited  in  time  and 
space;  they  may  succeed  temporarily  in  overcoming  conflicts,  although  as 
a rule  they  fail  and  tend  rather  to  sharpen  them.  From  the  very  beginning 
the  imperialist  adventure  of  expansion  appeared  to  be  an  eternal  solution, 
because  expansion  was  conceived  as  unlimited.  Furthermore,  imperialism 
was  not  an  adventure  in  the  usual  sense,  because  it  depended  less  on  na- 
tionalist slogans  than  on  the  seemingly  solid  basis  of  economic  interests. 
In  a society  of  clashing  interests,  where  the  common  good  was  identified 

lional  Liberal  Parly.”  Frymann,  a prominent  German  chauvinist  during  the  first  World 
War,  even  adds  with  respect  lo  the  conservatives:  “The  aloofness  of  conservative  milieus 
wiih  regard  lo  race  doctrines  is  also  worthy  of  note.” 

64  Hobson,  op.  cit.,  p.  61. 



with  the  sum  total  of  individual  interests,  expansion  as  such  appeared  to  be 
a possible  common  interest  of  the  nation  as  a whole.  Since  the  owning  and 
dominant  classes  had  convinced  everybody  that  economic  interest  and  the 
passion  for  ownership  are  a sound  basis  for  the  body  politic,  even  non- 
imperialist statesmen  were  easily  persuaded  to  yield  when  a common  eco- 
nomic interest  appeared  on  the  horizon. 

These  then  are  the  reasons  why  nationalism  developed  so  clear  a tendency 
toward  imperialism,  the  inner  contradiction  of  the  two  principles  notwith- 
standing.56 The  more  ill-fitted  nations  were  for  the  incorporation  of  foreign 
peoples  (which  contradicted  the  constitution  of  their  own  body  politic), 
the  more  they  were  tempted  to  oppress  them.  In  theory,  there  is  an  abyss 
between  nationalism  and  imperialism;  in  practice,  it  can  and  has  been 
bridged  by  tribal  nationalism  and  outright  racism.  From  the  beginning, 
imperialists  in  all  countries  preached  and  boasted  of  their  being  “beyond 
the  parties,”  and  the  only  ones  to  speak  for  the  nation  as  a whole.  This  was 
especially  true  of  the  Central  and  Eastern  European  countries  • with  few 
or  no  overseas  holdings;  there  the  alliance  between  mob  and  capital  took 
place  at  home  and  resented  even  more  bitterly  (and  attacked  much  more 
violently)  the  national  institutions  and  all  national  parties.56 

The  contemptuous  indifference  of  imperialist  politicians  to  domestic 
issues  was  marked  everywhere,  however,  and  especially  in  England.  While 
“parties  above  parties”  like  the  Primrose  League  were  of  secondary  in- 
fluence, imperialism  was  the  chief  cause  of  the  degeneration  of  the  two-party 
system  into  the  Front  Bench  system,  which  led  to  a “diminution  of  the  power 
of  opposition”  in  Parliament  and  to  a growth  of  “power  of  the  Cabinet  as 
against  the  House  of  Commons.”  57  Of  course  this  was  also  carried  through 
as  a policy  beyond  the  strife  of  parties  and  particular  interests,  and  by  men 
who  claimed  to  speak  for  the  nation  as  a whole.  Such  language  was  bound 
to  attract  and  delude  precisely  those  persons  who  still  retained  a spark  of 
political  idealism.  The  cry  for  unity  resembled  exactly  the  battle  cries  which 
had  always  led  peoples  to  war;  and  yet,  nobody  detected  in  the  universal 
and  permanent  instrument  of  unity  the  germ  of  universal  and  permanent  war. 

Government  officials  engaged  more  actively  than  any  other  group  in  the 
nationalist  brand  of  imperialism  and  were  chiefly  responsible  for  the  con- 
fusion of  imperialism  with  nationalism.  The  nation-states  had  created  and 
depended  upon  the  civil  services  as  a permanent  body  of  officials  who  served 

55  Hobson,  op.  cit.t  was  the  first  to  recognize  both  the  fundamental  opposition  of 
imperialism  and  nationalism  and  the  tendency  of  nationalism  to  become  imperialist. 
He  called  imperialism  a perversion  of  nationalism  “in  which  nations  . . . transform 
the  wholesome  stimulative  rivalry  of  various  national  types  into  the  cut-throat 
struggle  of  competing  empires”  (p.  9.). 

CG  See  chapter  viii. 

57  Hobson,  op.  cit.,  pp.  146  ff. — “There  can  be  no  doubt  that  the  power  of  the 
Cabinet  as  against  the  House  of  Commons  has  grown  steadily  and  rapidly  and  it 
appears  to  be  still  growing,”  noticed  Bryce  in  1901,  in  Studies  in  History  and  Juris- 
prudence, 1901,  I,  177.  For  the  working  of  the  Front  Bench  system  see  also  Hilaire 
Belloc  and  Cecil  Chesterton,  The  Party  System , London,  1911. 



regardless  of  class  interest  and  governmental  changes.  Their  professional 
honor  and  self-respect— especially  in  England  and  Germany — derived  from 
their  being  servants  of  the  nation  as  a whole.  They  were  the  only  group  with 
a direct  interest  in  supporting  the  state’s  fundamental  claim  to  independence 
of  classes  and  factions.  That  the  authority  of  the  nation-state  itself  depended 
largely  on  the  economic  independence  and  political  neutrality  of  its  civil 
servants  becomes  obvious  in  our  time;  the  decline  of  nations  has  invariably 
started  with  the  corruption  of  its  permanent  administration  and  the  general 
conviction  that  civil  servants  are  in  the  pay,  not  of  the  state,  but  of  the 
owning  classes.  At  the  close  of  the  century  the  owning  classes  had  become 
so  dominant  that  it  was  almost  ridiculous  for  a state  employee  to  keep  up 
the  pretense  of  serving  the  nation.  Division  into  classes  left  them  outside 
the  social  body  and  forced  them  to  form  a clique  of  their  own.  In  the 
colonial  services  they  escaped  the  actual  disintegration  of  the  national  body. 
In  ruling  foreign  peoples  in  faraway  countries,  they  could  much  better  pre- 
tend to  be  heroic  servants  of  the  nation,  “who  by  their  services  had  glorified 
the  British  race,”  58  than  if  they  had  stayed  at  home.  The  colonies  were  no 
longer  simply  “a  vast  system  of  outdoor  relief  for  the  upper  classes’’  as 
James  Mill  could  still  describe  them;  they  were  to  become  the  very  backbone 
of  British  nationalism,  which  discovered  in  the  domination  of  distant  coun- 
tries and  the  rule  over  strange  peoples  the  only  way  to  serve  British,  and 
nothing  but  British,  interests.  The  services  actually  believed  that  “the  pe- 
culiar genius  of  each  nation  shows  itself  nowhere  more  clearly  than  in  their 
system  of  dealing  with  subject  races.”  80 

The  truth  was  that  only  far  from  home  could  a citizen  of  England,  Ger- 
many, or  France  be  nothing  but  an  Englishman  or  German  or  Frenchman. 
In  his  own  country  he  was  so  entangled  in  economic  interests  or  social 
loyalties  that  he  felt  closer  to  a member  of  his  class  in  a foreign  country 
than  to  a man  of  another  class  in  his  own.  Expansion  gave  nationalism  a 
new  lease  on  life  and  therefore  was  accepted  as  an  instrument  of  national 
politics.  The  members  of  the  new  colonial  societies  and  imperialist  leagues 
felt  “far  removed  from  the  strife  of  parties,”  and  the  farther  away  they 
moved  the  stronger  their  belief  that  they  “represented  only  a national  pur- 
pose.” 00  This  shows  the  desperate  state  of  the  European  nations  before 
imperialism,  how  fragile  their  institutions  had  become,  how  outdated  their 
social  system  proved  in  the  face  of  man’s  growing  capacity  to  produce.  The 

58  Lord  Curzon  at  the  unveiling  of  Lord  Cromer’s  memorial  tablet.  See  Lawrence 
J.  Zetland,  Lord  Cromer,  1932,  p.  362. 

&0  Sir  Hesketh  Bell,  op.  cit.,  Part  I,  p.  300. 

The  same  sentiment  prevailed  in  the  Dutch  colonial  services.  “The  highest  task,  the 
task  without  precedent  is  that  which  awaits  the  East  Indian  Civil  Service  official  . . . 
it  should  be  considered  as  the  highest  honor  to  serve  in  its  ranks  . . . , the  select 
body  which  fulfills  the  mission  of  Holland  overseas.”  See  De  Kat  Angelino,  Colonial 
Policy,  Chicago,  1931,  II,  129. 

co  The  President  of  the  German  “Kolonialverein,”  Hohenlohe-Langenburg,  in  1884. 
See  Mary  E.  Townsend,  Origin  of  Modern  German  Colonialism.  1871-1885 , 1921. 


means  for  preservation  were  desperate  too,  and  in  the  end  the  remedy  proved 
worse  than  the  evil — which,  incidentally,  it  did  not  cure. 

The  alliance  between  capital  and  mob  is  to  be  found  at  the  genesis  of 
every  consistently  imperialist  policy.  In  some  countries,  particularly  in 
GreatTSritain,  this  new  alliance  between  the  much-too-rich  and  the  much- 
too-poor  was  and  remained  confined  to  overseas  possessions.  The  so-called 
hypocrisy  of  British  policies  was  the  result  of  the  good  sense  of  English 
statesmen  who  drew  a sharp  line  between  colonial  methods  and  normal 
domestic  policies,  thereby  avoiding  with  considerable  success  the  feared 
boomerang  effect  of  imperialism  upon  the  homeland.  In  other  countries, 
particularly  in  Germany  and  Austria,  the  alliance  took  effect  at  home  in 
the  form  of  pan-movements,  and  to  a lesser  extent  in  France,  in  a so-called 
colonial  policy.  The  aim  of  these  “movements”. was,  so  to  speak,  toim- 
perialize  the  whole  nation  (and  not  only  the  “superfluous”  part  of  it),  to 
combine  domestic  and  foreign  policy  in  such  a way  as  to  organize  the  nation 
fox  the  looting  of  foreign  territories  and  the  permanent  degradation  of  alien 

The  rise  of  the  mob  out  of  the  capitalist  organization  was  observed  early, 
and  its  growth  carefully  and  anxiously  noted  by  all  great  historians  of  the 
nineteenth  century.  Historical  pessimism  from  Burckhardt  to  Spengler  springs 
essentially  from  this  consideration.  But  what  the  historians,  sadly  pre- 
occupied with  the  phenomenon  in  itself,  failed  to  grasp  was  that  the  mob 
could  not  be  identified  with  the  growing  industrial  working  _cjass>  and  cer- 
tainly not  with  the  people  as  a whole,  but  that  it  was  composed  actually  of 
the  refuse  of  all  classes.  This  composition  made  it  seem  that  the  mob  and 
its  representatives  had  abolished  class  differences,  that  those,  standing  out- 
side the  class-divided  nation  were  the  people  itself  (the  Volksgemeinschaft, 
as  the  Nazis  would  call  it)  rather  than  its  distortion  and  caricature.  The 
historical  pessimists  understood  the  essential  irresponsibility  of  this  new 
social  stratum,  and  they  also  correctly  foresaw  the  possibility  of  converting 
democracy  into  a despotism  whose  tyrants  would  rise  from  the  mob  and 
lean  on  it  for  support.  What  they  failed  to  understand  was  that  the  mob  is 
not  only  the  refuse  but  also  the  by-product  of  bourgeois  society,  directly 
produced  bv  it  and  therefore  never  quite  separable  from  it.  They  failed  for 
this  reason  to  notice  high  society’s  constantly  growing  admiration  for  the 
underworld,  which  runs  like  a red  thread  through  the  nineteenth  century, 
its  continuous  step-by-step  retreat  on  all  questions  of  morality,  and  its 
growing  taste  for  the  anarchical  cynicism  of  its  offspring.  At  the  turn  of  the 
century,  the  Dreyfus  Affair  showed  that  underworld  and  high  society  in 
France  were  so  closely  bound  together  that  it  was  difficult  definitely  to  place 
any  of  the  “heroes”  among  the  Anti-Dreyfusards  in  either  category. 

This  feeling  of  kinship,  the  joining  together  of  begetter  and  offspring, 
already  classically  expressed  in  Balzac’s  novels,  antedates  all  practical  eco- 
nomic, political,  or  social  considerations  and  recalls  those  fundamental 
psychological  traits  of  the  new  type  of  Western  man  that  Hobbes  outlined 



three  hundred  years  ago.  But  it  is  true  that  it  was  mainly  due  to  the  insights, 
acquired  by  the  bourgeoisie  during  the  crises  and  depressions  which  pre- 
ceded imperialism,  that  high  society  finally  admitted  its  readiness  to  accept 
the  revolutionary  change  in  moral  standards  which  Hobbes  s realism  had 
proposed,  and  which  was  now  being  proposed  anew  by  the  mob  and  its 
leaders.  The  very  fact  that  the  “original  sin”  of  “original  accumulation  of 
capital"  would  need  additional  sins  to  keep  the  system  going  was  far  more 
effective  in  persuading  the  bourgeoisie  to  shake  off  the  restraints  of  Western 
tradition  than  either  its  philosopher  or  its  underworld.  It  finally  induced  the 
German  bourgeoisie  to  throw  off  the  mask  of  hypocrisy  and  openly  confess 
its  relationship  to  the  mob,  calling  on  it  expressly  to  champion  its  property 

It  is  significant  that  this  should  have  happened  in  Germany.  In  England 
and  Holland  the  development  of  bourgeois  society  had  progressed  relatively 
quietly  and  the  bourgeoisie  of  these  countries  enjoyed  centuries  of  security 
and  freedom  from  fear.  Its  rise  in  France,  however,  was  interrupted  by  a 
great  popular  revolution  whose  consequences  interfered  with  the  bour- 
geoisie’s enjoyment  of  supremacy.  In  Germany,  moreover,  where  the  bour- 
geoisie did  not  reach  full  development  until  the  latter  half  of  the  nineteenth 
century,  its  rise  was  accompanied  from  the  start  by  the  growth  of  a revolu- 
tionary working-class  movement  with  a tradition  nearly  as  old  as  its  own. 
It  was  a matter  of  course  that  the  less  secure  a bourgeois  class  felt  in  its  own 
country,  the  more  it  would  be  tempted  to  shed  the  heavy  burden  of  hypoc- 
risy. High  society’s  affinity  with  the  mob  came  to  light  in  France  earlier 
than  in  Germany,  but  was  in  the  end  equally  strong  in  both  countries. 
France,  however,  because  of  her  revolutionary  traditions  and  her  relative 
lack  of  industrialization,  produced  only  a relatively  small  mob,  so  that  her 
bourgeoisie  was  finally  forced  to  look  for  help  beyond  the  frontiers  and  to 
ally  itself  with  Hitler  Germany. 

Whatever  the  precise  nature  of  the  long  historical  evolution  of  the  bour- 
geoisie in  the  various  European  countries,  the  political  principles  of  the 
mob,  as  encountered  in  imperialist  ideologies  and  totalitarian  movements, 
betray  a surprisingly  strong  affinity  with  the  political  attitudes  of  bourgeois 
society,  if  the  latter  are  cleansed  of  hypocrisy  and  untainted  by  concessions 
to  Christian  tradition.  What  more  recently  made  the  nihilistic  attitudes  of 
the  mob  so  intellectually  attractive  to  the  bourgeoisie  is  a relationship  of 
principle  that  goes  far  beyond  the  actual  birth  of  the  mob. 

In  other  words,  the  disparity  between  cause  and  effect  which  character- 
ized the  birth  of  imperialism  has  its  reasons.  The  occasion — superfluous 
wealth  created  by  overaccumulation,  which  needed  the  mob’s  help  to  find 
safe  and  profitable  investment — set  in  motion  a force  that  had  always  lain 
in  the  basic  structure  of  bourgeois  society,  though  it  had  been  hidden  by 
nobler  traditions  and  by  that  blessed  hypocrisy  which  La  Rochefoucauld 
called  the  compliment  vice  pays  to  virtue.  At  the  same  time,  completely  un- 
principled  power  politics  could  not  be  played  until  a mass  of  people  was 
available  who  were  free  of  all  principles  and  so  large  numerically^that  they 



surpassed  the  ability  of  state  and  society  to  take  care  of  them.  The  fact  that 
this  mob  could  be  used  only  by  imperialist  politicians  and  inspired  only  by 
racial  doctrines  made  it  appear  as  though  imperialism  alone  were  able  to 
settle  the  grave  domestic,  social,  and  economic  problems  of  modern  times. 

The  philosophy  of  Hobbes,  it  is  true,  contains  nothing  of  modern  race 
doctrines,  which  not  only  stir  up  the  mob,  but  in  their  totalitarian  form  out- 
line very  clearly  the  forms  of  organization  through  which  humanity  could 
carry  the  endless  process  of  capital  and  power  accumulation  through  to  its 
logical  end  in  self-destruction.  But  Hobbes  at  least  provided  political  thought 
with  the  prerequisite  for  all  race  doctrines,  that  is,  the  exclusion  in  principle 
of  the  idea  of  humanity  which  constitutes  the  sole  regulating  idea  of  inter- 
national law.  With  the  assumption  that  foreign  politics  is  necessarily  outside 
of  the  human  contract,  engaged  in  the  perpetual  war  of  all  against  all,  which 
is  the  law  of  the  “state  of  nature,”  Hobbes  affords  the  best  possible  theoretical 
foundation  for  those  naturalistic  ideologies  which  hold  nations  to  be  tribes, 
separated  from  each  other  by  nature,  without  any  connection  whatever, 
unconscious  of  the  solidarity  of  mankind  and  having  in  common  only  the 
instinct  for  self-preservation  which  man  shares  with  the  animal  world.  If 
the  idea  of  humanity,  of  which  the  most  conclusive  symbol  is  the  common 
origin  of  the  human  species,  is  no  longer  valid,  then  nothing  is  more  plausible 
than  a theory  according  to  which  brown,  yellow,  or  black  races  are  descended 
from  some  other  species  of  apes  than  the  white  race,  and  that  all  together 
are  predestined  by  nature  to  war  against  each  other  until  they  have  dis- 
appeared from  the  face  of  the  earth. 

If  it  should  prove  to  be  true  that  we  are  imprisoned  in  Hobbes’s  endless 
process  of  power  accumulation,  then  the  organization  of  the  mob  will  in- 
evitably take  the  form  of  transformation  of  nations  into  races,  for  there  is, 
under  the  conditions  of  an  accumulating  society,  no  other  unifying  bond 
available  between  individuals  who  in  the  very  process  of  power  accumulation 
and  expansion  are  losing  all  natural  connections  with  their  fellow-men. 

Racism  may  indeed  carry  out  the  doom  of  the  Western  world  and,  for 
that  matter,  of  the  whole  of  human  civilization.  When  Russians  have  become 
Slavs,  when  Frenchmen  have  assumed  the  role  of  commanders  of  a force 
noire , when  Englishmen  have  turned  into  “white  men,”  as  already  for  a 
disastrous  spell  all  Germans  became  Aryans,  then  this  change  will  itself 
signify  the  end  of  Western  man.  For  no  matter  what  learned  scientists  may 
say,  race  is,  politically  speaking,  not  the  beginning  of  humanity  but  its  end, 
not  the  origin  of  peoples  but  their  decay,  not  the  natural  birth  of  man  but 
his  unnatural  death. 

c «ia i* ter  s.x:  Race-Thinking  Before 

IF  race-thinking  were  a German  invention,  as  it  has  been  sometimes 
asserted,  then  “German  thinking”  (whatever  that  may  be)  was  vic- 
torious in  many  parts  of  the  spiritual  world  long  before  the  Nazis  started 
their  ill-fated  attempt  at  world  conquest.  Hitlerism  exercised  its  strong 
international  and  inter-European  appeal  during  the  thirties  because  racism, 
although  a state  doctrine  only  in  Germany,  had  been  a powerful  trend  in 
public  opinion  everywhere.  The  Nazi  political  war  machine  had  long  been 
in  motion  when  in  1939  German  tanks  began  their  march  of  destruction, 
since — in  political  warfare — racism  was  calculated  to  be  a more  powerful 
ally  than  any  paid  agent  or  secret  organization  of  fifth  columnists. 
Strengthened  by  the  experiences  of  almost  two  decades  in  the  various  capi- 
tals, the  Nazis  were  confident  that  their  best  “propaganda”  would  be  their 
racial  policy  itself,  from  which,  despite  many  other  compromises  and 
broken  promises,  they  had  never  swerved  for  expediency’s  sake.1  Racism 
was  neither  a new  nor  a secret  weapon,  though  never  before  had  it  been 
used  with  this  thoroughgoing  consistency. 

The  historical  truth  of  the  matter  is  that  race-thinking,  with  its  roots 
deep  in  the  eighteenth  century,  emerged  simultaneously  in  all  Western 
countries  during  the  nineteenth  century.  Racism  has  been  the  powerful 
ideology  of  imperialistic  policies  since  the  turn  of  our  century.  It  certainly 
has  absorbed  and  revived  all  the  old  patterns  of  race  opinions  which,  how- 
ever, by  themselves  would  hardly  have  been  able  to  create  or,  for  that 
matter,  to  degenerate  into  racism  as  a Weltanschauung  or  an  ideology.  In 
the  middle  of  the  last  century,  race  opinions  were  still  judged  by  the 
yardstick  of  political  reason:  Tocqueville  wrote  to  Gobineau  about  the 
latter's  doctrines,  “They  are  probably  wrong  and  certainly  pernicious.”  2 
Not  until  the  end  of  the  century  were  dignity  and  importance  accorded 
race-thinking  as  though  it  had  been  one  of  the  major  spiritual  contribu- 
tions of  the  Western  world.® 

1  During  the  German-Russian  pact,  Nazi  propaganda  stopped  all  attacks  on  “Bol- 
shevism” but  never  gave  up  the  race-line. 

2  Leltres  de  Alexis  de  Tocqueville  et  de  Arthur  de  Gobineau,”  in  Revue  des  Deux 
Mondes,  1907,  Tome  199,  Letter  of  November  17,  1853. 

3  The  best  historical  account  of  race-thinking  in  the  pattern  of  a ‘‘history  of  ideas” 
is  Erich  Voegelin,  Rasse  und  Staat,  Tuebingen,  1933. 



Until  the  fateful  days  of  the  “scramble  for  Africa,”  race-thinking  had 
been  one  of  the  many  free  opinions  which,  within  the  general  framework 
of  liberalism,  argued  and  fought  each  other  to  win  the  consent  of  public 
opinion.4  Only  a few  of  them  became  full-fledged  ideologies,  that  is,  sys- 
tems based  upon  a single  opinion  that  proved  strong  enough  to  attract  and 
persuade  a majority  of  people  and  broad  enough  to  lead  them  through 
the  various  experiences  and  situations  of  an  average  modern  life.  For  an 
ideology  differs  from  a simple  opinion  in  that  it  claims  to  possess  either  the 
key  to  history,  or  the  solution  for  all  the  “riddles  of  the  universe,”  or  the 
intimate  knowledge  of  the  hidden  universal  laws  which  are  supposed  to 
rule  nature  and  man.  Few  ideologies  have  won  enough  prominence  to 
survive  the  hard  competitive  struggle  of  persuasion,  and  only  two  have  come 
out  on  top  and  essentially  defeated  all  others:  the  ideology  which  interprets 
history  as  an  economic  struggle  of  classes,  and  the  other  that  interprets 
history  as  a natural  fight  of  races.  The  appeal  of  both  to  large  masses  was 
so  strong  that  they  were  able  to  enlist  state  support  and  establish  them- 
selves as  official  national  doctrines.  But  far  beyond  the  boundaries  within 
which  race-thinking  and  class-thinking  have  developed  into  obligatory 
patterns  of  thought,  free  public  opinion  has  adopted  them  to  such  an  extent 
that  not  only  intellectuals  but  great  masses  of  people  will  no  longer  accept 
a presentation  of  past  or  present  facts  that  is  not  in  agreement  with  either 
of  these  views. 

The  tremendous  power  of  persuasion  inherent  in  the  main  ideologies  of 
our  times  is  not  accidental.  Persuasion  is  not  possible  without  appeal  to 
either  experiences  or  desires,  in  other  words  to  immediate  political  needs. 
Plausibility  in  these  matters  comes  neither  from  scientific  facts,  as  the  vari- 
ous brands  of  Darwinists  would  like  us  to  believe,  nor  from  historical  laws, 
as  the  historians  pretend,  in  their  efforts  to  discover  the  law  according  to 
which  civilizations  rise  and  fall.  Every  full-fledged  ideology  has  been 
created,  continued  and  improved  as  a political  weapon  and  not  as  a 
theoretical  doctrine.  It  is  true  that  sometimes — and  such  is  the  case  with 
racism — an  ideology  has  changed  its  original  political  sense,  but  without 
immediate  contact  with  political  life  none  of  them  could  be  imagined. 
Their  scientific  aspect  is  secondary  and  arises  first  from  the  desire  to  pro- 
vide watertight  arguments,  and  second  because  their  persuasive  power 
also  got  hold  of  scientists,  who  no  longer  were  interested  in  the  result  of 
their  research  but  left  their  laboratories  and  hurried  off  to  preach  to  the 
multitude  their  new  interpretations  of  life  and  world.6  We  owe  it  to  these 

4 For  the  host  of  nineteenth-century  conflicting  opinions  see  Carlton  J.  H.  Hayes, 
A Generation  of  Materialism,  New  York,  1941,  pp.  111-122. 

6 “Huxley  neglected  scientific  research  of  his  own  from  the  ’70’s  onward,  so  busy 
was  he  in  the  role  of  ‘Darwin’s  bulldog’  barking  and  biting  at  theologians”  (Hayes, 
op.  cit.,  p.  126).  Ernst  Haeckel’s  passion  for  popularizing  scientific  results  which  was 
at  least  as  strong  as  his  passion  for  science  itself,  has  been  stressed  recently  by  an  ap- 
plauding Nazi  writer,  H.  Bruecher,  “Ernst  Haeckel,  Ein  Wegbereiter  biologischen 
Staatsdenkens.”  In  Nationalsozialistische  Monatshefte,  1935,  Heft  69. 

Two  rather  extreme  examples  may  be  quoted  to  show  what  scientists  are  capable 



“scientific”  preachers  rather  than  to  any  scientific  findings  that  today  no 
single  science  is  left  into  whose  categorical  system  race-thinking  has  not 
deeply  penetrated.  This  again  has  made  historians,  some  of  whom  have 
been  tempted  to  hold  science  responsible  for  race-thinking,  mistake  certain 
either  philological  or  biological  research  results  for  causes  instead  of 
consequences  of  race-thinking.':  The  opposite  would  have  come  closer  to 
the  truth.  As  a matter  of  fact,  the  doctrine  that  Might  is  Right  needed 
several  centuries  (from  the  seventeenth  to  the  nineteenth)  to  conquer  natu- 
ral science  and  produce  the  “law”  of  the  survival  of  the  fittest.  And  if,  to 
take  another  instance,  the  theory  of  de  Maistre  and  Schelling  about  savage 
tribes  as  the  decaying  residues  of  former  peoples  had  suited  the  nineteenth- 
century  political  devices  as  well  as  the  theory  of  progress,  we  would 
probably  never  have  heard  much  of  “primitives”  and  no  scientist  would 
have  wasted  his  time  looking  for  the  “missing  link”  between  ape  and  man. 
The  blame  is  not  to  be  laid  on  any  science  as  such,  but  rather  on  certain 
scientists  who  were  no  less  hypnotized  by  ideologies  than  their  fellow- 

The  fact  that  racism  is  the  main  ideological  weapon  of  imperialistic 
politics  is  so  obvious  that  it  seems  as  though  many  students  prefer  to 
avoid  the  beaten  track  of  truism.  Instead,  an  old  misconception  of  racism 

of.  Both  were  scholars  of  good  standing,  writing  during  World  War  I.  The  German 
historian  of  art,  Josef  Strzygowski,  in  his  Altai,  Iran  and  Vdlkerwanderung  (Leipzig, 
19 17)  discovered  the  Nordic  race  to  be  composed  of  Germans,  Ukrainians,  Armenians, 
Persians,  Hungarians,  Bulgars  and  Turks  (pp.  306-307).  The  Society  of  Medicine  of 
Paris  not  only  published  a report  on  the  discovery  of  “polychesia”  (excessive  defeca- 
tion) and  “bromidrosis”  (body  odor)  in  the  German  race,  but  proposed  urinalysis 
for  the  detection  of  German  spies;  German  urine  was  “found”  to  contain  20  per  cent 
non-uric  nitrogen  as  against  15  per  cent  for  other  races.  See  Jacques  Barzun,  Race, 
New  York.  1937,  p.  239. 

11  I his  quid  pro  quo  was  partly  the  result  of  the  zeal  of  students  who  wanted  to  put 
down  every  single  instance  in  which  race  has  been  mentioned.  Thereby  they  mistook 
relatively  harmless  authors,  for  whom  explanation  by  race  was  a possible  and  some- 
times fascinating  opinion,  for  full-fledged  racists.  Such  opinions,  in  themselves  harmless, 
were  advanced  by  the  early  anthropologists  as  starting  points  of  their  investiga- 
tions. A typical  instance  is  the  naive  hypothesis  of  Paul  Broca,  noted  French  anthro- 
pologist of  the  middle  of  the  last  century,  who  assumed  that  “the  brain  has  something 
to  do  with  race  and  the  measured  shape  of  the  skull  is  the  best  way  to  get  at  the  con- 
tents of  the  brain”  (quoted  after  Jacques  Barzun,  op.  cit.,  p.  162).  It  is  obvious  that 
this  assertion,  without  the  support  of  a conception  of  the  nature  of  man,  is  simply 

As  for  the  philologists  of  the  early  nineteenth  century,  whose  concept  of  “Aryanism” 
has  seduced  almost  every  student  of  racism  to  count  them  among  the  propagandists  or 
even  inventors  of  race-thinking,  they  are  as  innocent  as  innocent  can  be.  When  they 
overstepped  the  limits  of  pure  research  it  was  because  they  wanted  to  include  in  the 
same  cultural  brotherhood  as  many  nations  as  possible.  In  the  words  of  Ernest  Seilliere, 
La  Philosophic  de  ihnperialismc,  4 vols.,  1903-1906:  “There  was  a kind  of  intoxica- 
tion: modern  civilization  believed  it  had  recovered  its  pedigree  . . . and  an  organism 
was  born  which  embraced  in  one  and  the  same  fraternity  all  nations  whose  language 
showed  some  affinity  with  Sanskrit.”  (Preface,  Tome  I,  p.  xxxv.)  In  other  words, 
these  men  were  still  in  the  humanistic  tradition  of  the  eighteenth  century  and  shared 
its  enthusiasm  about  strange  people  and  exotic  cultures. 



as  a kind  of  exaggerated  nationalism  is  still  given  currency.  Valuable  works 
of  students,  especially  in  France,  who  have  proved  that  racism  is  not  only 
a quite  different  phenomenon  but  tends  to  destroy  the  body  politic  of  the 
nation,  are  generally  overlooked.  Witnessing  the  gigantic  competition  be- 
tween race-thinking  and  class-thinking  for  dominion  over  the  minds  of 
modern  men,  some  have  been  inclined  to  see  in  the  one  the  expression  of 
national  and  in  the  other  the  expression  of  international  trends,  to  believe 
the  one  to  be  the  mental  preparation  for  national  wars  and  the  other  to  be 
the  ideology  for  civil  wars.  This  has  been  possible  because  of  the  first 
World  War’s  curious  mixture  of  old  national  and  new  imperialistic  conflicts, 
a mixture  in  which  old  national  slogans  proved  still  to  possess  a far  greater 
appeal  to  the  masses  of  all  countries  involved  than  any  imperialistic  aims. 
The  last  war,  however,  with  its  Quislings  and  collaborationists  everywhere, 
should  have  proved  that  racism  can  stir  up  civil  conflicts  in  every  country, 
and  is  one  of  the  most  ingenious  devices  ever  invented  for  preparing  civil 

For  the  truth  is  that  race-thinking  entered  the  scene  of  active  politics 
the  moment  the  European  peoples  had  prepared,  and  to  a certain  extent 
realized,  the  new  body  politic  of  the  nation.  From  the  very  beginning, 
racism  deliberately  cut  across  all  national  boundaries,  whether  defined  by 
geographical,  linguistic,  traditional,  or  any  other  standards,  and  denied 
national-political  existence  as  such.  Race-thinking,  rather  than  class-think- 
ing, was  the  ever-present  shadow  accompanying  the  development  of  the 
comity  of  European  nations,  until  it  finally  grew  to  be  the  powerful  weapon 
for  the  destruction  of  those  nations.  Historically  speaking,  racists  have  a 
worse  record  of  patriotism  than  the  representatives  of  all  other  inter- 
national ideologies  together,  and  they  were  the  only  ones  who  consistently 
denied  the  great  principle  upon  which  national  organizations  of  peoples 
are  built,  the  principle  of  equality  and  solidarity  of  all  peoples  guaranteed 
by  the  idea  of  mankind. 

i:  A “Race”  of  Aristocrats  Against  a “ Nation ” of  Citizens 

A steadily  rising  interest  in  the  most  different,  strange,  and  even  savage 
peoples  was  characteristic  of  France  during  the  eighteenth  century. 
This  was  the  time  when  Chinese  paintings  were  admired  and  imitated, 
when  one  of  the  most  famous  works  of  the  century  was  named  Lettres 
Persanes,  and  when  travelers’  reports  were  the  favorite  reading  of  society. 
The  honesty  and  simplicity  of  savage  and  uncivilized  peoples  were  opposed 
to  the  sophistication  and  frivolity  of  culture.  Long  before  the  nineteenth 
century  with  its  tremendously  enlarged  opportunities  for  travel  brought  the 
non-European  world  into  the  home  of  every  average  citizen,  eighteenth- 
century  French  society  had  tried  to  grasp  spiritually  the  content  of  cultures 
and  countries  that  lay  far  beyond  European  boundaries.  A great  enthusiasm 



for  “new  specimens  of  mankind”  (Herder)  filled  the  hearts  of  the  heroes 
of  the  French  Revolution  who  together  with  the  French  nation  liberated 
every  people  of  every  color  under  the  French  flag.  This  enthusiasm  for 
strange  and  foreign  countries  culminated  in  the  message  of  fraternity,  be- 
cause it  was  inspired  by  the  desire  to  prove  in  every  new  and  surprising 
“specimen  of  mankind”  the  old  saying  of  La  Bruyere:  “La  raison  est  de  tous 
les  c It  mats ." 

Yet  it  is  this  nation-creating  century  and  humanity-loving  country  to 
which  we  must  trace  the  germs  of  what  later  proved  to  become  the  nation- 
destroying  and  humanity-annihilating  power  of  racism.7  It  is  a remarkable 
fact  that  the  first  author  who  assumed  the  coexistence  of  different  peoples 
with  different  origins  in  France,  was  at  the  same  time  the  first  to  elaborate 
definite  class-thinking.  The  Comte  de  Boulainvilliers,  a French  nobleman 
who  wrote  at  the  beginning  of  the  eighteenth  century  and  whose  works 
were  published  after  his  death,  interpreted  the  history  of  France  as  the 
history  of  two  different  nations  of  which  the  one,  of  Germanic  origin,  had 
conquered  the  older  inhabitants,  the  “Gaulcs,”  had  imposed  its  laws  upon 
them,  had  taken  their  lands,  and  had  settled  down  as  the  ruling  class,  the 
“peerage”  whose  supreme  rights  rested  upon  the  ‘Tight  of  conquest”  and 
the  “necessity  of  obedience  always  due  to  the  strongest.”  8 Engaged  chiefly 
in  finding  arguments  against  the  rising  political  power  of  the  Tiers  Etat  and 
their  spokesmen,  the  “nouveau  corps ” formed  by  “gens  de  lettres  et  de 
lois Boulainvilliers  had  to  fight  the  monarchy  too  because  the  French  king 
wanted  no  longer  to  represent  the  peerage  as  primus  inter  pares  but  the 
nation  as  a whole;  in  him,  for  a while,  the  new  rising  class  found  its  most 
powerful  protector.  In  order  to  regain  uncontested  primacy  for  the  nobility, 
Boulainvilliers  proposed  that  his  fellow-noblemen  deny  a common  origin 
with  the  French  people,  break  up  the  unity  of  the  nation,  and  claim  an 
original  and  therefore  eternal  distinction.9  Much  bolder  than  most  of  the 
later  defenders  of  nobility,  Boulainvilliers  denied  any  predestined  connec- 
tion with  the  soil;  he  conceded  that  the  “Gaules”  had  been  in  France  longer, 
that  the  “Francs”  were  strangers  and  barbarians.  He  based  his  doctrine 
solely  on  the  eternal  right  of  conquest  and  found  no  difficulty  in  asserting 
that  “Friesland  . . . has  been  the  true  cradle  of  the  French  nation.”  Cen- 
turies before  the  actual  development  of  imperialistic  racism,  following  only 
the  inherent  logic  of  his  concept,  he  considered  the  original  inhabitants  of 
France  natives  in  the  modern  sense,  or  in  his  own  terms  “subjects” — not  of 

7 Francois  Hotman,  French  sixteenth-century  author  of  Franco-Gallia,  is  sometimes 
held  to  be  a forerunner  of  eighteenth-century  racial  doctrines,  as  by  Ernest  Seilliere, 
op.  cit.  Against  this  misconceplion,  Theophile  Simar  has  rightly  protested:  “Hotman 
appears,  not  as  an  apologist  for  the  Teutons,  but  as  the  defender  of  the  people  which 
was  oppressed  by  the  monarchy”  ( Etude  Critique  sur  la  Formation  de  la  doctrine  des 
Races  au  18e  et  son  expansion  au  I9e  siecle,  Bruxelles,  1922,  p.  20). 

8 Histoire  de  I'Ancien  Gouvernement  de  la  France,  1727,  Tome  I,  p.  33. 

9 That  the  Comte  Boulainvilliers’  history  was  meant  as  a political  weapon  against 
the  Tiers  Elat  was  stated  by  Montesquieu,  Esprit  des  Lois , 1748,  XXX,  chap.  x. 


the  king — but  of  all  those  whose  advantage  was  descent  from  the  con- 
quering people,  who  by  right  of  birth  were  to  be  called  “Frenchmen.” 

Boulainvilliers  was  deeply  influenced  by  the  seventeenth-century  might- 
right  doctrines  and  he  certainly  was  one  of  the  most  consistent  contempo- 
rary disciples  of  Spinoza,  whose  Ethics  he  translated  and  whose  Trait e 
theologico-politique  he  analyzed.  In  his  reception  and  application  of 
Spinoza’s  political  ideas,  might  was  changed  into  conquest  and  conquest 
pcted  as  a kind  of  unique  judgment  on  the  natural  qualities  and  human 
privileges  of  men  and  nations.  In  this  we  may  detect  the  first  traces  of  later 
naturalistic  transformations  the  might-right  doctrine  was  to  go  through. 
This  view  is  really  corroborated  by  the  fact  that  Boulainvilliers  was  one 
of  the  outstanding  freethinkers  of  his  time,  and  that  his  attacks  on  the 
Christian  Church  were  hardly  motivated  by  anticlericalism  alone. 

Boulainvilliers’  theory,  however,  still  deals  with  peoples  and  not  with 
races;  it  bases  the  right  of  the  superior  people  on  a historical  deed,  conquest, 
and  not  on  a physical  fact — although  the  historical  deed  already  has 
a certain  influence  on  the  natural  qualities  of  the  conquered  people.  It 
invents  two  different  peoples  within  France  in  order  to  counteract  the  new 
national  idea,  represented  as  it  was  to  a certain  extent  by  the  absolute 
monarchy  in  alliance  with  the  Tiers  Etat.  Boulainvilliers  is  antinational  at 
a time  when  the  idea  of  nationhood  was  felt  to  be  new  and  revolutionary, 
but  had  not  yet  shown,  as  it  did  in  the  French  Revolution,  how  closely  it 
was  connected  with  a democratic  form  of  government.  Boulainvilliers  pre- 
pared his  country  for  civil  war  without  knowing  what  civil  war  meant. 
He  is  representative  of  many  of  the  nobles  who  did  not  regard  themselves 
as  representative  of  the  nation,  but  as  a separate  ruling  caste  which  might 
have  much  more  in  common  with  a foreign  people  of  the  “same  society 
and  condition”  than  with  its  compatriots.  It  has  been,  indeed,  these  anti- 
national trends  that  exercised  their  influence  in  the  milieu  of  the  emigres 
and  finally  were  absorbed  by  new  and  outspoken  racial  doctrines  late  in 
the  nineteenth  century. 

Not  until  the  actual  outbreak  of  the  Revolution  forced  great  numbers 
of  the  French  nobility  to  seek  refuge  in  Germany  and  England  did  Boulain- 
villiers’ ideas  show  their  usefulness  as  a political  weapon.  In  the  meantime, 
his  influence  upon  the  French  aristocracy  was  kept  alive,  as  can  be  seen 
in  the  works  of  another  Comte,  the  Comte  Dubuat-Nangay,10  who  wanted 
to  tie  French  nobility  even  closer  to  its  continental  brothers.  On  the  eve 
of  the  Revolution,  this  spokesman  of  French  feudalism  felt  so  insecure  that 
he  hoped  for  “the  creation  of  a kind  of  Internationale  of  aristocracy  of 
barbarian  origin,”  11  and  since  the  German  nobility  was  the  only  one  whose 
help  could  eventually  be  expected,  here  too  the  true  origin  of  the  French 
nation  was  supposed  to  be  identical  with  that  of  the  Germans  and  the 
French  lower  classes,  though  no  longer  slaves,  were  not  free  by  birth  but 

10  Les  Origines  de  VAncien  Gouvernement  de  la  France,  de  V Allemagne  et  de  Vltalie, 

11  Seilliere,  op.  cit.,  p.  xxxii. 



by  “ affranchissemcnt by  grace  of  those  who  were  free  by  birth,  of  the 
nobility.  A few  years  later  the  French  exiles  actually  tried  to  form  an 
internationale  of  aristocrats  in  order  to  stave  off  the  revolt  of  those  they 
considered  to  be  a foreign  enslaved  people.  And  although  the  more  practi- 
cal side  of  these  attempts  suffered  the  spectacular  disaster  of  Valmy, 
emigres  like  Charles  Francois  Dominique  de  Villiers,  who  about  1800 
opposed  the  “ Gallo-Romains " to  the  Germanics,  or  like  William  Alter  who 
a decade  later  dreamed  of  a federation  of  alt  Germanic  peoples,1"  did  not 
admit  defeat.  It  probably  never  occurred  to  them  that  they  were  actually 
traitors,  so  firmly  were  they  convinced  that  the  French  Revolution  was  a 
“war  between  foreign  peoples” — as  Francois  Guizot  much  later  put  it. 

While  Boulainvilliers,  with  the  calm  fairness  of  a less  disturbed  time, 
based  the  rights  of  nobility  solely  on  the  rights  of  conquest  without  directly 
depreciating  the  very  nature  of  the  other  conquered  nation,  the  Comte  de 
Montlosicr,  one  of  the  rather  dubious  personages  among  the  French  exiles, 
openly  expressed  his  contempt  for  this  “new  people  risen  from  slaves  . . . 
(a  mixture)  of  all  races  and  all  times.”  13  Times  obviously  had  changed 
and  noblemen  who  no  longer  belonged  to  an  unconquered  race  also  had 
to  change.  They  gave  up  the  old  idea,  so  dear  to  Boulainvilliers  and  even 
to  Montesquieu,  that  conquest  alone,  fortune  des  armes,  determined  the 
destinies  of  men.  The  Valmy  of  noble  ideologies  came  when  the  Abbe 
Sicyes  in  his  famous  pamphlet  told  the  Tiers  Etat  to  “send  back  into  the 
forests  of  Franconia  all  those  families  who  preserve  the  absurd  pretension 
of  being  descended  from  the  conquering  race  and  of  having  succeeded  to 
their  rights.”  14 

It  is  rather  curious  that  from  these  early  times  when  French  noblemen 
in  their  class  struggle  against  the  bourgeoisie  discovered  that  they  belonged 
to  another  nation,  had  another  genealogical  origin,  and  were  more  closely 
tied  to  an  international  caste  than  to  the  soil  of  France,  all  French  racial 
theories  have  supported  the  Germanism  or  at  least  the  superiority  of  the 
Nordic  peoples  as  against  their  own  countrymen.  For  if  the  men  of  the 
French  Revolution  identified  themselves  mentally  with  Rome,  it  was  not 
because  they  opposed  to  the  “Germanism”  of  their  nobility  a “Latinism”  of 
the  Tiers  Etat,  but  because  they  felt  they  were  the  spiritual  heirs  of  Roman 
Republicans.  This  historical  claim,  in  contrast  to  the  tribal  identification 
of  the  nobility,  might  have  been  among  the  causes  that  prevented  “Latinism” 
from  emerging  as  a racial  doctrine  of  its  own.  In  any  event,  paradoxical  as 
it  sounds,  the  fact  is  that  Frenchmen  were  to  insist  earlier  than  Germans 

12  See  Rene  Maunier,  Sociologie  Coloniale,  Paris,  1932,  Tome  II,  p.  115. 

13  Monilosier,  even  in  exile,  was  closely  connected  with  the  French  chief  of  police, 
Fouche,  who  helped  him  improve  the  sad  financial  conditions  of  a refugee.  Later,  he 
served  as  a secret  agent  for  Napoleon  in  French  society.  See  Joseph  Brugerette,  Le 
Comic  de  Montlosicr,  1931,  and  Simar,  op . c/7.,  p.  71. 

14  Qucsi-ce-que  le  Tiers  Etat?  (1789)  published  shortly  before  the  outbreak  of  the 
Revolution.  Translation  quoted  after  J.  H.  Clapham,  The  Abbe  Sieyes,  London,  1912, 

p.  62. 



or  Englishmen  on  this  idee  fixe  of  Germanic  superiority.15  Nor  did  the 
birth  of  German  racial  consciousness  after  the  Prussian  defeat  of  1806, 
directed  as  it  was  against  the  French,  change  the  course  of  racial  ideologies 
in  France.  In  the  forties  of  the  last  century,  Augustin  Thierry  still  adhered 
to  the  identification  of  classes  and  races  and  distinguished  between  a 
“Germanic  nobility”  and  a “celtic  bourgeoisie,”  16  and  again  a nobleman, 
the  Comte  de  Remusat,  proclaimed  the  Germanic  origin  of  the  European 
aristocracy.  Finally,  the  Comte  de  Gobineau  developed  an  opinion  already 
generally  accepted  among  the  French  nobility  into  a full-fledged  historical 
doctrine,  claiming  to  have  detected  the  secret  law  of  the  fall  of  civilizations 
and  to  have  exalted  history  to  the  dignity  of  a natural  science.  With  him 
race-thinking  completed  its  first  stage,  and  began  its  second  stage  whose 
influences  were  to  be  felt  until  the  twenties  of  our  century. 

Ii : Race  Unity  as  a Substitute  for  National  Emancipation 

race-thinking  in  Germany  did  not  develop  before  the  defeat  of  the  old 
Prussian  army  by  Napoleon.  It  owed  its  rise  to  the  Prussian  patriots  and 
political  romanticism,  rather  than  to  the  nobility  and  their  spokesmen.  In 
contrast  to  the  French  brand  of  race-thinking  as  a weapon  for  civil  war 
and  for  splitting  the  nation,  German  race-thinking  was  invented  in  an  effort 
to  unite  the  people  against  foreign  domination.  Its  authors  did  not  look 
for  allies  beyond  the  frontiers  but  wanted  to  awaken  in  the  people  a 
consciousness  of  common  origin.  This  actually  excluded  the  nobility  with 
their  notoriously  cosmopolitan  relations — which,  however,  were  less  char- 
acteristic of  the  Prussian  Junkers  than  of  the  rest  of  the  European  nobility; 
at  any  rate,  it  excluded  the  possibility  of  this  race-thinking  basing  itself 
on  the  most  exclusive  class  of  the  people. 

Since  German  race-thinking  accompanied  the  long  frustrated  attempts 
to  unite  the  numerous  German  states,  it  remained  so  closely  connected,  in 
its  early  stages,  with  more  general  national  feelings  that  it  is  rather  difficult 
to  distinguish  between  mere  nationalism  and  clear-cut  racism.  Harmless 
national  sentiments  expressed  themselves  in  what  we  know  today  to  be 
racial  terms,  so  that  even  historians  who  identify  the  twentieth-century 
German  brand  of  racism  with  the  peculiar  language  of  German  nationalism 
have  strangely  been  led  into  mistaking  Nazism  for  German  nationalism, 
thereby  helping  to  underestimate  the  tremendous  international  appeal  of 
Hitler’s  propaganda.  These  particular  conditions  of  German  nationalism 
changed  only  when,  after  1870,  the  unification  of  the  nation  actually  had 
taken  place  and  German  racism,  together  with  German  imperialism,  fully 
developed.  From  these  early  times,  however,  not  a few  characteristics  sur- 

15  “Historical  Aryanism  has  its  origin  in  1 8th  century  feudalism  and  was  supported 
by  19th  century  Germanism”  observes  Seilliere,  op.  cit.>  p.  ii. 

16  Lettres  sur  Vhistoire  de  France  (1840). 



vivcd  which  have  remained  significant  for  the  specifically  German  brand 
of  race-thinking. 

In  contrast  to  France,  Prussian  noblemen  felt  their  interests  to  be  closely 
connected  with  the  position  of  the  absolute  monarchy  and,  at  least  since 
the  time  of  Frederick  II,  they  sought  recognition  as  the  legitimate  repre- 
sentatives of  the  nation  as  a whole.  With  the  exception  of  the  few  years  of 
Prussian  reforms  (from  1808-1812),  the  Prussian  nobility  was  not  fright- 
ened by  the  rise  of  a bourgeois  class  that  might  have  wanted  to  take  over 
the  government,  nor  did  they  have  to  fear  a coalition  between  the  middle 
classes  and  the  ruling  house.  The  Prussian  king,  until  1809  the  greatest 
landlord  of  the  country,  remained  primus  inter  pares  despite  all  efforts  of 
the  Reformers.  Race-thinking,  therefore,  developed  outside  the  nobility,  as 
a weapon  of  certain  nationalists  who  wanted  the  union  of  all  German- 
speaking peoples  and  therefore  insisted  on  a common  origin.  They  were 
liberals  in  the  sense  that  they  were  rather  opposed  to  the  exclusive  rule  of 
the  Prussian  Junkers.  As  long  as  this  common  origin  was  defined  by  com- 
mon language,  one  can  hardly  speak  of  race-thinking.17 

It  is  noteworthy  that  only  after  1814  is  this  common  origin  described 
frequently  in  terms  of  “blood  relationship,”  of  family  ties,  of  tribal  unity, 
of  unmixed  origin.  These  definitions,  which  appear  almost  simultaneously 
in  the  writings  of  the  Catholic  Josef  Goerres  and  nationalistic  liberals  like 
Ernst  Moritz  Arndt  or  F.  L.  Jahn,  bear  witness  to  the  utter  failure  of  the 
hopes  of  rousing  true  national  sentiments  in  the  German  people.  Out  of 
the  failure  to  raise  the  people  to  nationhood,  out  of  the  lack  of  common 
historical  memories  and  the  apparent  popular  apathy  to  common  destinies 
in  the  future,  a naturalistic  appeal  was  born  which  addressed  itself  to 
tribal  instincts  as  a possible  substitute  for  what  the  whole  world  had  seen 
to  be  the  glorious  power  of  French  nationhood.  The  organic  doctrine  of  a 
history  for  which  “every  race  is  a separate,  complete  whole”  18  was  invented 
by  men  who  needed  ideological  definitions  of  national  unity  as  a substitute 
for  political  nationhood.  It  was  a frustrated  nationalism  that  led  to  Arndt’s 
statement  that  Germans — who  apparently  were  the  last  to  develop  an  organic 
unity — had  the  luck  to  be  of  pure,  unmixed  stock,  a “genuine  people.”  19 

Organic  naturalistic  definitions  of  peoples  are  an  outstanding  characteris- 
tic of  German  ideologies  and  German  historism.  They  nevertheless  are  not 
yet  actual  racism,  for  the  same  men  who  speak  in  these  “racial”  terms  still 
uphold  the  central  pillar  of  genuine  nationhood,  the  equality  of  all  peoples. 
Thus,  in  the  same  article  in  which  Jahn  compares  the  laws  of  peoples  with 

17  This  is  ine  case  for  instance  in  Friedrich  Schlegel’s  Philosophische  Vorlesungen 
aus  den  Jahrcn  1804-1806 , 11,  357.  The  same  holds  true  for  Ernst  Moritz  Arndt. 
See  Alfred  P.  Pundl,  Arndt  and  the  National  Awakening  in  Germany,  New  York, 
i93-  pp.  116  f.  Even  Fichte,  the  favorite  modern  scapegoat  for  German  race-thinking, 
hardly  ever  went  beyond  the  limits  of  nationalism. 

x*  Joseph  Goerres,  in  Rheinischer  Merkur,  1814,  No.  25. 

Phantasien  zur  Berichtigung  der  Urteile  uber  kiinftige  deutsche  Verfassungen, 



the  laws  of  animal  life,  he  insists  on  the  genuine  equal  plurality  of  peoples 
in  whose  complete  multitude  alone  mankind  can  be  realized.20  And  Arndt, 
who  later  was  to  express  strong  sympathies  with  the  national  liberation  move- 
ments of  the  Poles  and  the  Italians,  exclaimed:  “Cursed  be  anyone  who 
would  subjugate  and  rule  foreign  peoples.”  21  Insofar  as  German  national 
feelings  had  not  been  the  fruit  of  a genuine  national  development  but  rather 
the  reaction  to  foreign  occupation,22  national  doctrines  were  of  a peculiar 
negative  character,  destined  to  create  a wall  around  the  people,  to  act  as 
substitutes  for  frontiers  which  could  not  be  clearly  defined  either  geograph- 
ically or  historically. 

If,  in  the  early  form  of  French  aristocracy,  race-thinking  had  been  in- 
vented as  an  instrument  of  internal  division  and  had  turned  out  to  be  a 
weapon  for  civil  war,  this  early  form  of  German  race-doctrine  was  invented 
as  a weapon  of  internal  national  unity  and  turned  out  to  be  a weapon  for 
national  wars.  As  the  decline  of  the  French  nobility  as  an  important  class 
in  the  French  nation  would  have  made  this  weapon  useless  if  the  foes  of  the 
Third  Republic  had  not  revived  it,  so  upon  the  accomplishment  of  German 
national  unity  the  organic  doctrine  of  history  would  have  lost  its  meaning 
had  not  modern  imperialistic  schemers  wanted  to  revive  it,  in  order  to 
appeal  to  the  people  and  to  hide  their  hideous  faces  under  the  respectable 
cover  of  nationalism.  The  same  does  not  hold  true  for  another  source  of 
German  racism  which,  though  seemingly  more  remote  from  the  scene  of 
politics,  had  a far  stronger  genuine  bearing  upon  later  political  ideologies. 

Political  romanticism  has  been  accused  of  inventing  race-thinking,  as  it 
has  been  and  could  be  accused  of  inventing  every  other  possible  irresponsible 
opinion.  Adam  Mueller  and  Friedrich  Schlegel  are  symptomatic  in  the  high- 
est degree  of  a general  playfulness  of  modern  thought  in  which  almost  any 
opinion  can  gain  ground  temporarily.  No  real  thing,  no  historical  event,  no 
political  idea  was  safe  from  the  all-embracing  and  all-destroying  mania  by 
which  these  first  literati  could  always  find  new  and  original  opportunities 
for  new  and  fascinating  opinions.  “The  world  must  be  romanticized,”  as 
Novalis  put  it,  wanting  “to  bestow  a high  sense  upon  the  common,  a mys- 
terious appearance  upon  the  ordinary,  the  dignity  of  the  unknown  upon 

20  “Animals  of  mixed  stock  have  no  real  generative  power;  similarly,  hybrid  peo- 
ples have  no  folk  propagation  of  their  own.  . . . The  ancestor  of  humanity  is  dead, 
the  original  race  is  extinct.  That  is  why  each  dying  people  is  a misfortune  for  human- 
ity. . . . Human  nobility  cannot  express  itself  in  one  people  alone.”  In  Deutsches 
Volkstum,  1810. 

The  same  instance  is  expressed  by  Goerres,  who  despite  his  naturalistic  definition  of 
people  (“all  members  are  united  by  a common  tie  of  blood”),  follows  a true  national 
principle  when  he  states:  “No  branch  has  a right  to  dominate  the  other”  (op.  cit.). 

21  Blick  aus  der  Zeit  auf  die  Zeit,  1814. — Translation  quoted  from  Alfred  P.  Pundt, 
op.  cit. 

22  “Not  until  Austria  and  Prussia  had  fallen  after  a vain  struggle  did  I really  begin 
to  love  Germany  ...  as  Germany  succumbed  to  conquest  and  subjection  it  became 
to  me  one  and  indissoluble,”  writes  E.  M.  Arndt  in  his  Erinnerungen  aus  Schweden, 
1818,  p.  82.  Translation  quoted  from  Pundt,  op.  cit.,  p.  151. 



the  well-known.”  23  One  of  these  romanticized  objects  was  the  people,  an 
object  that  could  be  changed  at  a moment’s  notice  into  the  state,  or  the 
family,  or  nobility,  or  anything  else  that  either — in  the  earlier  days — hap- 
pened to  cross  the  minds  of  one  of  these  intellectuals  or— later  when,  grow- 
ing older,  they  had  learned  the  reality  of  daily  bread — happened  to  be  asked 
for  by  some  paying  patron.24  Therefore  it  is  almost  impossible  to  study  the 
development  of  any  of  the  free  competing  opinions  of  which  the  nineteenth 
century  is  so  amazingly  full,  without  coming  across  romanticism  in  its 
German  form. 

What  these  first  modern  intellectuals  actually  prepared  was  not  so  much 
the  development  of  any  single  opinion  but  the  general  mentality  of  modern 
German  scholars;  these  latter  have  proved  more  than  once  that  hardly  an 
ideology  can  be  found  to  which  they  would  not  willingly  submit  if  the  only 
reality — which  even  a romantic  can  hardly  afford  to  overlook — is  at  stake, 
the  reality  of  their  position.  For  this  peculiar  behavior,  romanticism  pro- 
vided the  most  excellent  pretext  in  its  unlimited  idolization  of  the  “per- 
sonality” of  the  individual,  whose  very  arbitrariness  became  the  proof  of 
genius.  Whatever  served  the  so-called  productivity  of  the  individual,  namely, 
the  entirely  arbitrary  game  of  his  “ideas,”  could  be  made  the  center  of  a 
whole  outlook  on  life  and  world. 

This  inherent  cynicism  of  romantic  personality-worship  has  made  possible 
certain  modern  attitudes  among  intellectuals.  They  were  fairly  well  repre- 
sented by  Mussolini,  one  of  the  last  heirs  of  this  movement,  when  he  de- 
scribed himself  as  at  the  same  time  “aristocrat  and  democrat,  revolutionary 
and  reactionary,  proletarian  and  antiproletarian,  pacifist  and  antipacifist.” 
The  ruthless  individualism  of  romanticism  never  meant  anything  more 
serious  than  that  “everybody  is  free  to  create  for  himself  his  own  ideology.” 
What  was  new  in  Mussolini’s  experiment  was  the  “attempt  to  carry  it  out 
with  all  possible  energy.”  25 

Because  of  this  inherent  “relativism”  the  direct  contribution  of  roman- 
ticism to  the  development  of  race-thinking  can  almost  be  neglected.  In  the 
anarchic  game  whose  rules  entitle  everybody  at  any  given  time  to  at  least 
one  personal  and  arbitrary  opinion,  it  is  almost  a matter  of  course  that  every 
conceivable  opinion  should  be  formulated  and  duly  printed.  Much  more 
characteristic  than  this  chaos  was  the  fundamental  belief  in  personality  as 
an  ultimate  aim  in  itself.  In  Germany,  where  the  conflict  between  the  nobility 
and  the  rising  middle  class  was  never  fought  out  on  the  political  scene,  per- 
sonality worship  developed  as  the  only  means  of  gaining  at  least  some  kind 
of  social  emancipation.  The  governing  class  of  the  country  frankly  showed 
its  traditional  contempt  for  business  and  its  dislike  for  association  with 
merchants  in  spite  of  the  latter’s  growing  wealth  and  importance,  so  that  it 

2:5  “Neue  Fragmentensammlung”  (1798)  in  Schriften,  Leipzig,  1929,  Tome  II,  p.  335. 

I or  the  romantic  attitude  in  Germany  see  Carl  Schmitt,  Politische  Roniantik , 
Munchcn,  1925. 

- Mussolini,  “Relativismo  e Fascismo,”  in  Diuturna,  Milano,  1924.  The  translation 
quoted  from  F.  Neumann,  Behemoth , 1942,  pp.  462-463. 



was  not  easy  to  find  the  means  of  winning  some  kind  of  self-respect.  The 
classic  German  Bildungsroman,  Wilhelm  Meister,  in  which  the  middle-class 
hero  is  educated  by  noblemen  and  actors  because  the  bourgeois  in  his  own 
social  sphere  is  without  “personality,”  is  evidence  enough  of  the  hopeless- 
ness of  the  situation. 

German  intellectuals,  though  they  hardly  promoted  a political  fight  for 
the  middle  classes  to  which  they  belonged,  fought  an  embittered  and,  un- 
fortunately, highly  successful  battle  for  social  status.  Even  those  who  had 
written  in  defense  of  nobility  still  felt  their  own  interests  at  stake  when  it 
came  to  social  ranks.  In  order  to  enter  competition  with  rights  and  qualities 
of  birth,  they  formulated  the  new  concept  of  the  “innate  personality”  which 
was  to  win  general  approval  within  bourgeois  society.  Like  the  title  of  the 
heir  of  an  old  family,  the  “innate  personality”  was  given  by  birth  and  not 
acquired  by  merit.  Just  as  the  lack  of  common  history  for  the  formation  of 
the  nation  had  been  artificially  overcome  by  the  naturalistic  concept  of 
organic  development,  so,  in  the  social  sphere,  nature  itself  was  supposed  to 
supply  a title  when  political  reality  had  refused  it.  Liberal  writers  soon 
boasted  of  “true  nobility”  as  opposed  to  the  shabby  titles  of  Baron  or  others 
which  could  be  given  and  taken  away,  and  asserted,  by  implication,  that 
their  natural  privileges,  like  “force  or  genius,”  could  not  be  retraced  to  any 
human  deed.26 

The  discriminatory  point  of  this  new  social  concept  was  immediately 
affirmed.  During  the  long  period  of  mere  social  antisemitism,  which  intro- 
duced and  prepared  the  discovery  of  Jew-hating  as  a political  weapon,  it 
was  the  lack  of  “innate  personality,”  the  innate  lack  of  tact,  the  innate  lack 
of  productivity,  the  innate  disposition  for  trading,  etc.,  which  separated  the 
behavior  of  his  Jewish  colleague  from  that  of  the  average  businessman.  In 
its  feverish  attempt  to  summon  up  some  pride  of  its  own  against  the  caste 
arrogance  of  the  Junkers,  without,  however,  daring  to  fight  for  political 
leadership,  the  bourgeoisie  from  the  very  beginning  wanted  to  look  down 
not  so  much  on  other  lower  classes  of  their  own,  but  simply  on  other  peoples. 
Most  significant  for  these  attempts  is  the  small  literary  work  of  Clemens 
Brentano  27  which  was  written  for  and  read  in  the  ultranationalistic  club 
of  Napoleon-haters  that  gathered  together  in  1808  under  the  name  of  “Die 
Christlich-Deutsche  Tischgesellschaft.”  In  his  highly  sophisticated  and  witty 
manner,  Brentano  points  out  the  contrast  between  the  “innate  personality,” 
the  genial  individual,  and  the  “philistine”  whom  he  immediately  identifies 
with  Frenchmen  and  Jews.  Thereafter,  the  German  bourgeois  would  at  least 
try  to  attribute  to  other  peoples  all  the  qualities  which  the  nobility  despised 
as  typically  bourgeois — at  first  to  the  French,  later  to  the  English,  and  al- 
ways to  the  Jews.  As  for  the  mysterious  qualities  which  an  “innate  person- 

26  See  the  very  interesting  pamphlet  against  the  nobility  by  the  liberal  writer  Buch- 
holz,  Vntersuchungen  ueber  den  Geburtsadel,  Berlin,  1807,  p.  68:  “True  nobility  . . . 
cannot  be  given  or  taken  away;  for,  like  power  and  genius,  it  sets  itself  and  exists  by 

27  Clemens  Brentano,  Der  Philister  vor,  in  und  nach  der  Geschichte,  1811. 



aiity”  received  at  birth,  they  were  exactly  the  same  as  those  the  real  Jankers 
claimed  for  themselves. 

Although  in  this  way  standards  of  nobility  contributed  to  the  rise  of  race- 
thinking,  the  Junkers  themselves  did  hardly  anything  for  the  shaping  of 
this  mentality.  The  only  Junker  of  this  period  to  develop  a political  theory 
of  his  own,  Ludwig  von  dcr  Marwitz,  never  used  racial  terms.  According 
to  him,  nations  were  separated  by  language — a spiritual  and  not  a physical 
di  lie  re  nee — and  although  he  was  violently  opposed  to  the  French  Revolu- 
tion, he  spoke  like  Robespierre  when  it  came  to  the  possible  aggression  of 
one  nation  against  another:  “Who  aims  at  expanding  his  frontiers  should  be 
considered  a disloyal  betrayer  among  the  whole  European  republic  of 
states.”  28  It  was  Adam  Mueller  who  insisted  on  purity  of  descent  as  a test 
of  nobility,  and  it  was  Haller  who  went  beyond  the  obvious  fact  that  the 
powerful  rule  those  deprived  of  power  by  stating  it  as  a natural  law  that 
the  weak  should  be  dominated  by  the  strong.  Noblemen,  of  course,  applauded 
enthusiastically  when  they  learned  that  their  usurpation  of  power  was  not 
only  legal  but  in  accordance  with  natural  laws,  and  it  was  a consequence 
of  bourgeois  definitions  that  during  the  course  of  the  nineteenth  century  they 
avoided  “mesalliances”  more  carefully  than  ever  before.29 

This  insistence  on  common  tribal  origin  as  an  essential  of  nationhood, 
formulated  by  German  nationalists  during  and  after  the  war  of  1814,  and 
the  emphasis  laid  by  the  romantics  on  the  innate  personality  and  natural 
nobility  prepared  the  way  intellectually  for  race-thinking  in  Germany.  From 
the  former  sprang  the  organic  doctrine  of  history  with  its  natural  laws;  from 
the  latter  arose  at  the  end  of  the  century  the  grotesque  homunculus  of  the 
superman  whose  natural  destiny  it  is  to  rule  the  world.  As  long  as  these 
trends  ran  side  by  side,  they  were  but  temporary  means  of  escape  from 
political  realities.  Once  welded  together,  they  formed  the  very  basis  for 
racism  as  a full-fledged  ideology.  This,  however,  did  not  happen  first  in 
Germany,  but  in  France,  and  was  not  accomplished  by  middle-class  intel- 
lectuals but  by  a highly  gifted  and  frustrated  nobleman,  the  Comte  de 

ill:  The  New  Key  to  History 

in  1853,  Count  Arthur  de  Gobineau  published  his  Essai  sur  Vlnegalite  des 
Races  Humaines  which,  only  some  fifty  years  later,  at  the  turn  of  the  cen- 
tury, was  to  become  a kind  of  standard  work  for  race  theories  in  history. 

28  “Entwurf  eines  Friedenspaktes.”  In  Gerhard  Ramlow,  Ludwig  von  der  Marwitz 
und  die  Anjdnge  konservativer  Politik  und  Staatsauffassung  in  Preussen,  Historische 
Sludien,  Heft  185,  p.  92. 

29  See  Sigmund  Neumann,  Die  Stufen  des  preussischen  Konservatismus,  Historische 
Studien,  Heft  190,  Berlin,  1930.  Especially  pp.  48,  51,  64,  82.  For  Adam  Mueller,  see 
Elemente  der  Staatskunst,  1809. 



The  first  sentence  of  the  four-volume  work — “The  fall  of  civilization  is  the 
most  striking  and,  at  the  same  time,  the  most  obscure  of  all  phenomena  of 
history”  30 — indicates  clearly  the  essentially  new  and  modern  interest  of  its 
author,  the  new  pessimistic  mood  which  pervades  his  work  and  which  is 
the  ideological  force  that  was  capable  of  uniting  all  previous  factors  and 
conflicting  opinions.  True,  from  time  immemorial,  mankind  has  wanted  to 
know  as  much  as  possible  about  past  cultures,  fallen  empires,  extinct  peo- 
ples; but  nobody  before  Gobineau  thought  of  finding  one  single  reason,  one 
single  force  according  to  which  civilization  always  and  everywhere  rises 
and  falls.  Doctrines  of  decay  seem  to  have  some  very  intimate  connection 
with  race-thinking.  It  certainly  is  no  coincidence  that  another  early  “be- 
liever in  race,”  Benjamin  Disraeli,  was  equally  fascinated  by  the  fall  of 
cultures,  while  on  the  other  hand  Hegel,  whose  philosophy  was  concerned 
in  great  part  with  the  dialectical  law  of  development  in  history,  was  never 
interested  in  the  rise  and  fall  of  cultures  as  such  or  in  any  law  which  would 
explain  the  death  of  nations:  Gobineau  demonstrated  precisely  such  a law. 
Without  Darwinism  or  any  other  evolutionist  theory  to  influence  him,  this 
historian  boasted  of  having  introduced  history  into  the  family  of  natural 
sciences,  detected  the  natural  law  of  all  courses  of  events,  reduced  all 
spiritual  utterances  or  cultural  phenomena  to  something  “that  by  virtue  of 
exact  science  our  eyes  can  see,  our  ears  can  hear,  our  hands  can  touch.” 

The  most  surprising  aspect  of  the  theory,  set  forth  in  the  midst  of  the 
optimistic  nineteenth  century,  is  the  fact  that  the  author  is  fascinated  by 
the  fall  and  hardly  interested  in  the  rise  of  civilizations.  At  the  time  of  writing 
the  Essai  Gobineau  gave  but  little  thought  to  the  possible  use  of  his  theory 
as  a weapon  in  actual  politics,  and  therefore  had  the  courage  to  draw  the 
inherent  sinister  consequences  of  his  law  of  decay.  In  contrast  to  Spengler, 
who  predicts  only  the  fall  of  Western  culture,  Gobineau  foresees  with  “scien- 
tific” precision  nothing  less  than  the  definite  disappearance  of  Man — or,  in 
his  words,  of  the  human  race — from  the  face  of  the  earth.  After  four  volumes 
of  rewriting  human  history,  he  concludes:  “One  might  be  tempted  to  assign 
a total  duration  of  12  to  14  thousand  years  to  human  rule  over  the  earth, 
which  era  is  divided  into  two  periods:  the  first  has  passed  away  and  possessed 
the  youth  ...  the  second  has  begun  and  will  witness  the  declining  course 
down  toward  decrepitude.” 

It  has  rightly  been  observed  that  Gobineau,  thirty  years  before  Nietzsche, 
was  concerned  with  the  problem  of  “decadence  ” 31  There  is,  however,  this 
difference,  that  Nietzsche  possessed  the  basic  experience  of  European  de- 
cadence, writing  as  he  did  during  the  climax  of  this  movement  with 
Baudelaire  in  France,  Swinburne  in  England,  and  Wagner  in  Germany, 
whereas  Gobineau  was  hardly  aware  of  the  variety  of  the  modern  taedium 
vitae,  and  must  be  regarded  as  the  last  heir  of  Boulainvilliers  and  the  French 

30  Translation  quoted  from  The  Inequality  of  Human  Races,  translated  by  Adrien 
Collins,  1915. 

31  See  Robert  Dreyfus,  “La  vie  et  les  propheties  du  Comte  de  Gobineau,”  Paris,  1905, 
in  Cahiers  de  la  quinzaine,  Ser.  6,  Cah.  16,  p.  56. 



exiled  nobility  who,  without  psychological  complications,  simply  (and 
rightly)  feared  for  the  fate  of  aristocracy  as  a caste.  With  a certain  naivete 
he  accepted  almost  literally  the  eighteenth-century  doctrines  about  the 
origin  of  the  French  people:  the  bourgeois  are  the  descendants  of  Gallic- 
Roman  slaves,  noblemen  are  Germanic.32  The  same  is  true  for  his  insistence 
on  the  international  character  of  nobility.  A more  modern  aspect  of  his 
theories  is  revealed  in  the  fact  that  he  possibly  was  an  impostor  (his  French 
title  being  more  than  dubious),  that  he  exaggerated  and  overstrained  the 
older  doctrines  until  they  became  frankly  ridiculous — he  claimed  for  him- 
self a genealogy  which  led  over  a Scandinavian  pirate  to  Odin:  “I,  too,  am 
of  the  race  of  Gods.”  33  But  his  real  importance  is  that  in  the  midst  of 
progress-ideologies  he  prophesied  doom,  the  end  of  mankind  in  a slow 
natural  catastrophe.  When  Gobineau  started  his  work,  in  the  days  of  the 
bourgeois  king,  Louis  Philippe,  the  fate  of  nobility  appeared  sealed.  Nobility 
no  longer  needed  to  fear  the  victory  of  the  Tiers  Etat,  it  had  already  oc- 
curred and  they  could  only  complain.  Their  distress,  as  expressed  by  Gobi- 
neau, sometimes  comes  very  near  to  the  great  despair  of  the  poets  of  de- 
cadence who,  a few  decades  later,  sang  the  frailty  of  all  things  human — 
les  neiges  d’antan,  the  snows  of  yesteryear.  As  far  as  Gobineau  himself  was 
concerned,  this  affinity  is  rather  incidental;  but  it  is  interesting  to  note  that 
once  this  affinity  was  established,  nothing  could  prevent  very  respectable 
intellectuals  at  the  turn  of  the  century,  like  Robert  Dreyfus  in  France  or 
Thomas  Mann  in  Germany,  from  taking  this  descendant  of  Odin  seriously. 
Long  before  the  horrible  and  the  ridiculous  had  merged  into  the  humanly 
incomprehensible  mixture  that  is  the  hallmark  of  our  century,  the  ridiculous 
had  lost  its  power  to  kill. 

It  is  also  to  the  peculiar  pessimistic  mood,  to  the  active  despair  of  the  last 
decades  of  the  century  that  Gobineau  owed  his  belated  fame.  This,  however, 
does  not  necessarily  mean  that  he  himself  was  a forerunner  of  the  generation 
of  “the  merry  dance  of  death  and  trade”  (Joseph  Conrad).  He  was  neither 
a statesman  who  believed  in  business  nor  a poet  who  praised  death.  He  was 
only  a curious  mixture  of  frustrated  nobleman  and  romantic  intellectual 
who  invented  racism  almost  by  accident.  This  was  when  he  saw  that  he 
could  not  simply  accept  the  old  doctrines  of  the  two  peoples  within  France 
and  that,  in  view  of  changed  circumstances,  he  had  to  revise  the  old  line 
that  the  best  men  necessarily  are  at  the  top  of  society.  In  sad  contrast  to  his 
teachers,  he  had  to  explain  why  the  best  men,  noblemen,  could  not  even 
hope  to  regain  their  former  position.  Step  by  step,  he  identified  the  fall  of 
his  caste  with  the  fall  of  France,  then  of  Western  civilization,  and  then  of 
the  whole  of  mankind.  Thus  he  made  that  discovery,  for  which  he  was  so 
much  admired  by  later  writers  and  biographers,  that  the  fall  of  civilizations 
is  due  to  a degeneration  of  race  and  the  decay  of  race  is  due  to  a mixture 
of  blood.  This  implies  that  in  every  mixture  the  lower  race  is  always  dom- 

Essai,  Tome  II,  Book  IV,  p.  445,  and  the  article  “Ce  qui  est  arrive  a la  France  en 
1870”  in  Europe,  1923. 

33  J.  Duesberg,  “Le  Comte  de  Gobineau,”  in  Revue  Ginirale , 1939. 



inant.  This  kind  of  argumentation,  almost  commonplace  after  the  turn  of 
the  century,  did  not  fit  in  with  the  progress-doctrines  of  Gobineau’s  con- 
temporaries, who  soon  acquired  another  idee  fixe , the  ‘‘survival  of  the 
fittest.”  The  liberal  optimism  of  the  victorious  bourgeoisie  wanted  a new 
edition  of  the  might-right  theory,  not  the  key  to  history  or  the  proof  of  in- 
evitable decay.  Gobineau  tried  in  vain  to  get  a wider  audience  by  taking  a 
side  in  the  American  slave  issue  and  by  conveniently  building  his  whole 
system  on  the  basic  conflict  between  white  and  black.  He  had  to  wait  almost 
fifty  years  to  become  a success  among  the  elite,  and  not  until  the  first  World 
War  with  its  wave  of  death-philosophies  could  his  works  claim  wide  popu- 

What  Gobineau  was  actually  looking  for  in  politics  was  the  definition  and 
creation  of  an  “elite”  to  replace  the  aristocracy.  Instead  of  princes,  he 
proposed  a “race  of  princes,”  the  Aryans,  who  he  said  were  in  danger  of 
being  submerged  by  the  lower  non-Aryan  classes  through  democracy.  The 
concept  of  race  made  it  possible  to  organize  the  “innate  personalities”  of 
German  romanticism,  to  define  them  as  members  of  a natural  aristocracy 
destined  to  rule  over  all  others.  If  race  and  mixture  of  races  are  the  all- 
determining factors  for  the  individual — and  Gobineau  did  not  assume  the 
existence  of  “pure”  breeds — it  is  possible  to  pretend  that  physical  superiori- 
ties might  evolve  in  every  individual  no  matter  what  his  present  social  situa- 
tion, that  every  exceptional  man  belongs  to  the  “true  surviving  sons  of  . . . 
the  Merovings,”  the  “sons  of  kings.”  Thanks  to  race,  an  “elite”  would  be 
formed  which  could  lay  claim  to  the  old  prerogatives  of  feudal  families,  and 
this  only  by  asserting  that  they  felt  like  noblemen;  the  acceptance  of  the 
race  ideology  as  such  would  become  conclusive  proof  that  an  individual  was 
“well-bred,”  that  “blue  blood”  ran  through  his  veins  and  that  a superior 
origin  implied  superior  rights.  From  one  political  event,  therefore,  the  decline 
of  the  nobility,  the  Count  drew  two  contradictory  consequences — the  decay 
of  the  human  race  and  the  formation  of  a new  natural  aristocracy.  But  he  did 
not  live  to  see  the  practical  application  of  his  teachings  which  resolved  their 
inherent  contradictions — the  new  race-aristocracy  actually  began  to  effect 
the  “inevitable”  decay  of  mankind  in  a supreme  effort  to  destroy  it. 

Following  the  example  of  his  forerunners,  the  exiled  French  noblemen, 
Gobineau  saw  in  his  race-elite  not  only  a bulwark  against  democracy  but 
also  against  the  “Canaan  monstrosity”  of  patriotism.35  And  since  France 
still  happened  to  be  the  “ patrie ” par  excellence , for  her  government — 

34  See  the  Gobineau  memorial  issue  of  the  French  review  Europe , 1923.  Especially 
the  article  of  Clement  Serpeille  de  Gobineau,  “Le  Gobinisme  et  la  pensee  moderne.” 
“Yet  it  was  not  until  ...  the  middle  of  the  war  that  I thought  the  Essai  sur  les 
Races  was  inspired  by  a productive  hypothesis,  the  only  one  that  could  explain  certain 
events  happening  before  our  eyes.  ...  I was  surprised  to  note  that  this  opinion  was 
almost  unanimously  shared.  After  the  war,  I noticed  that  for  nearly  the  Whole  younger 
generation  the  works  of  Gobineau  had  become  a revelation.” 

55  Essai,  Tome  II,  Book  IV,  p.  440  and  note  on  p.  445:  “The  word  patrie  . . . has 
regained  its  significance  only  since  the  Gallo-Roman  strata  rose  and  assumed  a po- 
litical role.  With  their  triumph,  patriotism  has  again  become  a virtue.” 



whether  kingdom  or  Empire  or  Republic — was  still  based  upon  the  essential 
equality  of  men,  and  since,  worst  of  all,  she  was  the  only  country  of  his 
time  in  which  even  people  with  black  skin  could  enjoy  civil  rights,  it  was 
natural  for  Gobineau  to  give  allegiance  not  to  the  French  people,  but  to 
the  English,  and  later,  after  the  French  defeat  of  1871,  to  the  Germans.30 
Nor  can  this  lack  of  dignity  be  called  accidental  and  this  opportunism  an 
unhappy  coincidence.  The  old  saying  that  nothing  succeeds  like  success 
reckons  with  people  who  are  used  to  various  and  arbitrary  opinions.  Ideolo- 
gists who  pretend  to  possess  the  key  to  reality  are  forced  to  change  and 
twist  their  opinions  about  single  cases  according  to  the  latest  events  and  can 
never  afford  to  come  into  conflict  with  their  ever-changing  deity,  reality. 
It  would  be  absurd  to  ask  people  to  be  reliable  who  by  their  very  convictions 
must  justify  any  given  situation. 

It  must  be  conceded  that  up  to  the  time  when  the  Nazis,  in  establishing 
themselves  as  a race-elite,  frankly  bestowed  their  contempt  on  all  peoples, 
including  the  German,  French  racism  was  the  most  consistent,  for  it  never 
fell  into  the  weakness  of  patriotism.  (This  attitude  did  not  change  even 
during  the  last  war;  true,  the  “essence  aryenne”  no  longer  was  a monopoly 
of  the  Germans  but  rather  of  the  Anglo-Saxons,  the  Swedes,  and  the  Nor- 
mans, but  nation,  patriotism,  and  law  were  still  considered  to  be  “prejudices, 
fictitious  and  nominal  values.”)  37  Even  Taine  believed  firmly  in  the  superior 
genius  of  the  “Germanic  nation,”  38  and  Ernest  Renan  was  probably  the 
first  to  oppose  the  “Semites”  to  the  “Aryans”  in  a decisive  “division  du  genre 
humain”  although  he  held  civilization  to  be  the  great  superior  force  which 
destroys  local  originalities  as  well  as  original  race  differences.39  All  the  loose 
race  talk  that  is  so  characteristic  of  French  writers  after  1870, 40  even  if  they 
are  not  racists  in  any  strict  sense  of  the  word,  follows  antinational,  pro- 
Germanic  lines. 

If  the  consistent  antinational  trend  of  Gobinism  served  to  equip  the 
enemies  of  French  democracy  and,  later,  of  the  Third  Republic,  with  real 
or  fictitious  allies  beyond  the  frontiers  of  their  country,  the  specific  amalga- 
mation of  the  race  and  “elite”  concepts  equipped  the  international  intelli- 

88  See  Seillierc,  op.  cit.,  Tome  I:  Le  Comte  de  Gobineau  et  VAryanisme  historique , 
p.  32:  “In  the  Essai  Germany  is  hardly  Germanic,  Great  Britain  is  Germanic  to  a 
much  higher  degree.  . . . Certainly,  Gobineau  later  changed  his  mind,  but  under  the 
influence  of  success.”  It  is  interesting  to  note  that  for  Seilliere  who  during  his  studies 
became  an  ardent  adherent  of  Gobinism — “the  intellectual  climate  to  which  probably 
the  lungs  of  the  20th  century  will  have  to  adapt  themselves” — success  appeared  as 
quite  a sufficient  reason  for  Gobineau’s  suddenly  revised  opinion. 

37  Examples  could  be  multiplied.  The  quotation  is  taken  from  Camille  Spiess, 
Imperialismes  Gobinisme  en  France , Paris,  1917. 

38  For  Taine’s  stand  see  John  S.  White,  “Taine  on  Race  and  Genius,”  in  Social  Re- 
search, February,  1943. 

39  In  Gobineau’s  opinion,  the  Semites  were  a white  hybrid  race  bastardized  by  a 
mixture  with  blacks.  For  Renan  see  Histoire  Generate  et  Systeme  compare  des  Langues, 
^1863,  Part  I,  pp.  4,  503,  and  passim.  The  same  distinction  in  his  Langues  Semitiquesf 

40  This  has  been  very  well  exposed  by  Jacques  Barzun,  op.  cit. 



gentsia  with  new  and  exciting  psychological  toys  to  play  with  on  the  great 
playground  of  history.  Gobineau’s  “fils  des  rois”  were  close  relatives  of  the 
romantic  heroes,  saints,  geniuses  and  supermen  of  the  late  nineteenth  cen- 
tury, all  of  whom  can  hardly  hide  their  German  romantic  origin.  The  inherent 
irresponsibility  of  romantic  opinions  received  a new  stimulant  from  Gobi- 
neau’s mixture  of  races,  because  this  mixture  showed  a historical  event  of 
the  past  which  could  be  traced  in  the  depths  of  one’s  own  self.  This  meant 
that  inner  experiences  could  be  given  historical  significance,  that  one’s  own 
self  had  become  the  battlefield  of  history.  “Since  I read  the  Essai,  every  time 
some  conflict  stirred  up  the  hidden  sources  of  my  being,  I have  felt  that  a 
relentless  battle  went  on  in  my  soul,  the  battle  between  the  black,  the  yellow, 
the  Semite  and  the  Aryans.”  41  Significant  as  this  and  similar  confessions 
may  be  of  the  state  of  mind  of  modern  intellectuals,  who  are  the  true  heirs 
of  romanticism  whatever  opinion  they  happen  to  hold,  they  nevertheless 
indicate  the  essential  harmlessness  and  political  innocence  of  people  who 
probably  could  have  been  forced  into  line  by  each  and  every  ideology. 

IV:  The  “ Rights  of  Englishmen  9 vs . the  Rights  of  Men 

while  the  seeds  of  German  race-thinking  were  planted  during  the  Na- 
poleonic wars,  the  beginnings  of  the  later  English  development  appeared 
during  the  French  Revolution  and  may  be  traced  back  to  the  man  who 
violently  denounced  it  as  the  “most  astonishing  [crisis]  that  has  hitherto 
happened  in  the  world” — to  Edmund  Burke.42  The  tremendous  influence 
his  work  has  exercised  not  only  on  English  but  also  on  German  political 
thought  is  well  known.  The  fact,  however,  must  be  stressed  because  of  re- 
semblances between  German  and  English  race-thinking  as  contrasted  with 
the  French  brand.  These  resemblances  stem  from  the  fact  that  both  coun- 
tries had  defeated  the  Tricolor  and  therefore  showed  a certain  tendency  to 
discriminate  against  the  ideas  of  Liberte-Egalite-Fraternite  as  foreign  in- 
ventions. Social  inequality  being  the  basis  of  English  society,  British  Con- 
servatives felt  not  a little  uncomfortable  when  it  came  to  the  “rights  of 
men.”  According  to  opinions  widely  held  by  nineteenth-century  Tories,  in- 
equality belonged  to  the  English  national  character.  Disraeli  found  “some- 
thing better  than  the  Rights  of  Men  in  the  rights  of  Englishmen”  and  to  Sir 
James  Stephen  “few  things  in  history  [seemed]  so  beggarly  as  the  degree 
to  which  the  French  allowed  themselves  to  be  excited  about  such  things.”  43 
This  is  one  of  the  reasons  why  they  could  afford  to  develop  race-thinking 

41  This  surprising  gentleman  is  none  other  than  the  well-known  writer  and  historian 
Elie  Faure,  “Gobineau  et  le  Probleme  des  Races,”  in  Europe , 1923. 

42  Reflections  on  the  Revolution  in  France,  1790,  Everyman’s  Library  Edition,  New 
York,  p.  8. 

43  Liberty,  Equality,  Fraternity,  1873,  p.  254.  For  Lord  Beaconsfield  see  Benjamin 
Disraeli,  Lord  George  Bentinck,  1853,  p.  184. 



along  national  lines  until  the  end  of  the  nineteenth  century,  whereas  the 
same  opinions  in  France  showed  their  true  antinational  face  from  the  very 

Burke’s  main  argument  against  the  “abstract  principles”  of  the  French 
Revolution  is  contained  in  the  following  sentence:  “It  has  been  the  uni- 
form policy  of  our  constitution  to  claim  and  assert  our  liberties,  as  an 
entailed  inheritance  derived  to  us  from  our  forefathers,  and  to  be  transmitted 
to  our  posterity;  as  an  estate  specially  belonging  to  the  people  of  this  king- 
dom, without  any  reference  whatever  to  any  other  more  general  or  prior 
right.”  The  concept  of  inheritance,  applied  to  the  very  nature  of  liberty,  has 
been  the  ideological  basis  from  which  English  nationalism  received  its 
curious  touch  of  race-feeling  ever  since  the  French  Revolution.  Formulated 
by  a middle-class  writer,  it  signified  the  direct  acceptance  of  the  feudal  con- 
cept of  liberty  as  the  sum  total  of  privileges  inherited  together  with  title 
and  land.  Without  encroaching  upon  the  rights  of  the  privileged  class  within 
the  English  nation,  Burke  enlarged  the  principle  of  these  privileges  to  in- 
clude the  whole  English  people,  establishing  them  as  a kind  of  nobility 
among  nations.  Hence  he  drew  his  contempt  for  those  who  claimed  their 
franchise  as  the  rights  of  men,  rights  which  he  saw  fit  to  claim  only  as  “the 
rights  of  Englishmen.” 

In  England  nationalism  developed  without  serious  attacks  on  the  old 
feudal  classes.  This  has  been  possible  because  the  English  gentry,  from  the 
seventeenth  century  on  and  in  ever-increasing  numbers,  had  assimilated  the 
higher  ranks  of  the  bourgeoisie,  so  that  sometimes  even  the  common  man 
could  attain  the  position  of  a lord.  By  this  process  much  of  the  ordinary 
caste  arrogance  of  nobility  was  taken  away  and  a considerable  sense  of 
responsibility  for  the  nation  as  a whole  was  created;  but  by  the  same  token, 
feudal  concepts  and  mentality  could  influence  the  political  ideas  of  the  lower 
classes  more  easily  than  elsewhere.  Thus,  the  concept  of  inheritance  was 
accepted  almost  unchanged  and  applied  to  the  entire  British  “stock.”  The 
consequence  of  this  assimilation  of  noble  standards  was  that  the  English 
brand  of  race-thinking  was  almost  obsessed  with  inheritance  theories  and 
their  modern  equivalent,  eugenics. 

Ever  since  the  European  peoples  made  practical  attempts  to  include  all 
the  peoples  of  the  earth  in  their  conception  of  humanity,  they  have  been 
irritated  by  the  great  physical  differences  between  themselves  and  the  peo- 
ples they  found  on  other  continents.44  The  eighteenth-century  enthusiasm 
for  the  diversity  in  which  the  all-present  identical  nature  of  man  and  reason 
could  find  expression  provided  a rather  thin  cover  of  argument  to  the  crucial 
question,  whether  the  Christian  tenet  of  the  unity  and  equality  of  all  men, 
based  upon  common  descent  from  one  original  set  of  parents,  would  be  kept 

44  A significant  if  moderate  echo  of  this  inner  bewilderment  can  be  found  in  many 
an  eighteenth-century  traveling  report.  Voltaire  thought  it  important  enough  to  make  a 
special  note  in  his  Dictionnaire  Philosophique:  “We  have  seen,  moreover,  how  dif- 
ferent the  races  are  who  inhabit  this  globe,  and  how  great  must  have  been  the  sur- 
prise of  the  first  Negro  and  the  first  white  man  who  met”  (Article:  Homme). 



in  the  hearts  of  men  who  were  faced  with  tribes  which,  as  far  as  we  know, 
never  had  found  by  themselves  any  adequate  expression  of  human  reason 
or  human  passion  in  either  cultural  deeds  or  popular  customs,  and  which 
had  developed  human  institutions  only  to  a very  low  level.  This  new  prob- 
lem which  appeared  on  the  historical  scene  of  Europe  and  America  with  the 
more  intimate  knowledge  of  African  tribes  had  already  caused,  and  this 
especially  in  America  and  some  British  possessions,  a relapse  into  forms 
of  social  organization  which  were  thought  to  have  been  definitely  liquidated 
by  Christianity.  But  even  slavery,  though  actually  established  on  a strict 
racial  basis,  did  not  make  the  slave-holding  peoples  race-conscious  be- 
fore the  nineteenth  century.  Throughout  the  eighteenth  century,  American 
slave-holders  themselves  considered  it  a temporary  institution  and  wanted  to 
abolish  it  gradually.  Most  of  them  probably  would  have  said  with'  Jefferson: 
“I  tremble  when  I think  that  God  is  just.” 

In  France,  where  the  problem  of  black  tribes  had  been  met  with  the 
desire  to  assimilate  and  educate,  the  great  scientist  Leclerc  de  Buffon  had 
given  a first  classification  of  races  which,  based  upon  the  European  peoples 
and  classifying  all  others  by  their  differences,  had  taught  equality  by  strict 
juxtaposition.45  The  eighteenth  century,  to  use  Tocqucville’s  admirably  pre- 
cise phrase,  “believed  in  the  variety  of  races  but  in  the  unity  of  the  human 
species.”  46  In  Germany,  Herder  had  refused  to  apply  the  “ignoble  word” 
race  to  men,  and  even  the  first  cultural  historian  of  mankind  to  make  use  of 
the  classification  of  different  species,  Gustav  Klemm,47  still  respected  the  idea 
of  mankind  as  the  general  framework  for  his  investigations. 

But  in  America  and  England,  where  people  had  to  solve  a problem  of 
living  together  after  the  abolition  of  slavery,  things  were  considerably  less 
easy.  With  the  exception  of  South  Africa — a country  which  influenced 
Western  racism  only  after  the  “scramble  for  Africa”  in  the  eighties — these 
nations  were  the  first  to  deal  with  the  race  problem  in  practical  politics.  The 
abolition  of  slavery  sharpened  inherent  conflicts  instead  of  finding  a solution 
for  existing  serious  difficulties.  This  was  especially  true  in  England  where 
the  “rights  of  Englishmen”  were  not  replaced  by  a new  political  orientation 
which  might  have  declared  the  rights  of  men.  The  abolition  of  slavery  in 
the  British  possessions  in  1834  and  the  discussion  preceding  the  American 
Civil  War,  therefore,  found  in  England  a highly  confused  public  opinion 
which  was  fertile  soil  for  the  various  naturalistic  doctrines  which  arose  in 
those  decades. 

The  first  of  these  was  represented  by  the  polygenists  who,  challenging 
the  Bible  as  a book  of  pious  lies,  denied  any  relationship  between  human 
“races”;  their  main  achievement  was  the  destruction  of  the  idea  of  the 
natural  law  as  the  uniting  link  between  all  men  and  all  peoples.  Although 
it  did  not  stipulate  predestined  racial  superiority,  polygenism  arbitrarily  iso- 
lated all  peoples  from  one  another  by  the  deep  abyss  of  the  physical  impos- 

45  Histoire  Naturelle , 1769-89. 

46  Op.  cit.,  letter  of  May  15,  1852. 

47  Allgemeine  Kulturgeschichte  der  Menschheit,  1843-1852. 


17  S 

sibility  of  human  understanding  and  communication.  Polygenism  explains 
\shy  “East  is  East  and  West  is  West;  And  never  the  twain  shall  meet,”  and 
helped  much  to  prevent  intermarriage  in  the  colonies  and  to  promote  dis- 
crimination against  individuals  of  mixed  origin.  According  to  polygenism, 
these  people  are  not  true  human  beings;  they  belong  to  no  single  race,  but 
are  a kind  of  monster  whose  “every  cell  is  the  theater  of  a civil  war”48 

Lasting  as  the  influence  of  polygenism  on  English  race-thinking  proved 
to  be  in  flic  long  run,  in  the  nineteenth  century  it  was  soon  to  be  beaten  in 
the  field  of  public  opinion  by  another  doctrine.  This  doctrine  also  started 
from  the  principle  of  inheritance  but  added  to  it  the  political  principle  of  the 
nineteenth  century,  progress,  whence  it  arrived  at  the  opposite  but  far  more 
convincing  conclusion  that  man  is  related  not  only  to  man  but  to  animal 
life,  that  the  existence  of  lower  races  shows  clearly  that  gradual  differences 
alone  separate  man  and  beast  and  that  a powerful  struggle  for  existence 
dominates  all  living  things.  Darwinism  was  especially  strengthened  by  the 
fact  that  it  followed  the  path  of  the  old  might-right  doctrine.  But  while  this 
doctrine,  when  used  exclusively  by  aristocrats,  had  spoken  the  proud  language 
of  conquest,  it  was  now  translated  into  the  rather  bitter  language  of  people 
who  had  known  the  struggle  for  daily  bread  and  fought  their  way  to  the 
relative  security  of  upstarts. 

Darwinism  met  with  such  overwhelming  success  because  it  provided,  on 
the  basis  of  inheritance,  the  ideological  weapons  for  race  as  well  as  class  rule 
and  could  be  used  for,  as  well  as  against,  race  discrimination.  Politically 
speaking,  Darwinism  as  such  was  neutral,  and  it  has  led,  indeed,  to  all  kinds 
of  pacifism  and  cosmopolitanism  as  well  as  to  the  sharpest  forms  of  im- 
perialistic ideologies.49  In  the  seventies  and  eighties  of  the  last  century, 
Darwinism  was  still  almost  exclusively  in  the  hands  of  the  utilitarian  anti- 
colonial party  in  England.  And  the  first  philosopher  of  evolution,  Herbert 
Spencer,  who  treated  sociology  as  part  of  biology,  believed  natural  selec- 
tion to  benefit  the  evolution  of  mankind  and  to  result  in  everlasting  peace. 
For  political  discussion,  Darwinism  offered  two  important  concepts:  the 
struggle  for  existence  with  optimistic  assertion  of  the  necessary  and  auto- 
matic “survival  of  the  fittest,”  and  the  indefinite  possibilities  which  seemed 
to  lie  in  the  evolution  of  man  out  of  animal  life  and  which  started  the  new 
“science”  of  eugenics. 

The  doctrine  of  the  necessary  survival  of  the  fittest,  with  its  implication 
that  the  top  layers  in  society  eventually  are  the  “fittest,”  died  as  the  conquest 
doctrine  had  died,  namely,  at  the  moment  when  the  ruling  classes  in  England 
or  the  English  domination  in  colonial  possessions  were  no  longer  absolutely 
secure,  and  when  it  became  highly  doubtful  whether  those  who  were  “fittest” 
today  would  still  be  the  fittest  tomorrow.  The  other  part  of  Darwinism,  the 
genealogy  of  man  from  animal  life,  unfortunately  survived.  Eugenics  prom- 
ised to  overcome  the  troublesome  uncertainties  of  the  survival  doctrine  ac- 

48  A.  Carthill,  The  Lost  Dominion,  1924,  p.  158. 

49  See  Friedrich  Brie,  Imperialistische  Stromungen  in  der  englischen  Literatur,  Halle, 



cording  to  which  it  was  impossible  either  to  predict  who  would  turn  out  to 
be  the  fittest  or  to  provide  the  means  for  the  nations  to  develop  everlasting 
fitness.  This  possible  consequence  of  applied  eugenics  was  stressed  in  Ger- 
many in  the  twenties  as  a reaction  to  Spenglcr’s  Decline  of  the  West.50  The 
process  of  selection  had  only  to  be  changed  from  a natural  necessity  which 
worked  behind  the  backs  of  men  into  an  “artificial,”  consciously  applied 
physical  tool.  Bestiality  had  always  been  inherent  in  eugenics,  and  Ernst 
Haeckel’s  early  remark  that  mercy-death  would  save  “useless  expenses  for 
family  and  state”  is  quite  characteristic.51  Finally  the  last  disciples  of  Dar- 
winism in  Germany  decided  to  leave  the  field  of  scientific  research  altogether, 
to  forget  about  the  search  for  the  missing  link  between  man  and  ape,  and 
started  instead  their  practical  efforts  to  change  man  into  what  the  Darwinists 
thought  an  ape  is. 

But  before  Nazism,  in  the  course  of  its  totalitarian  policy,  attempted  to 
change  man  into  a beast,  there  were  numerous  efforts  to  develop  him  on  a 
strictly  hereditary  basis  into  a god.52  Not  only  Herbert  Spencer,  but  all  the 
early  evolutionists  and  Darwinists  “had  as  strong  a faith  in  humanity’s  angelic 
future  as  in  man’s  simian  origin.”  53  Selected  inheritance  was  believed  to 
result  in  “hereditary  genius,”  54  and  again  aristocracy  was  held  to  be  the 
natural  outcome,  not  of  politics,  but  of  natural  selection,  of  pure  breeding. 
To  transform  the  whole  nation  into  a natural  aristocracy  from  which  choice 

50  See,  for  instance,  Otto  Bangert,  Gold  oder  Blut,  1927.  “Therefore  a civilization 
can  be  eternal,”  p.  17. 

51  In  Lebensw under,  1904,  pp.  128  ff. 

62  Almost  a century  before  evolutionism  had  donned  the  cloak  of  science,  warning 
voices  foretold  the  inherent  consequences  of  a madness  that  was  then  merely  in  the 
stage  of  pure  imagination.  Voltaire,  more  than  once,  had  played  with  evolutionary 
opinions — see  chiefly  “Philosophic  Generate:  Metaphysique,  Morale  et  Theologie,” 
Oeuvres  Completes , 1785,  Tome  40,  pp.  16ff. — In  his  Dictionnaire  Philosophique, 
Article  “Chaine  des  Etres  Crccs,”  he  wrote:  “At  first,  our  imagination  is  pleased  at 
the  imperceptible  transition  of  crude  matter  to  organized  matter,  of  plants  to  zoo- 
phytes, of  these  zoophytes  to  animals,  of  these  to  man,  of  man  to  spirits,  of  these 
spirits  clothed  with  a small  aerial  body  to  immaterial  substances;  and  ...  to  God 
Himself.  . . . But  the  most  perfect  spirit  created  by  the  Supreme  Being,  can  he  be- 
come God?  Is  there  not  an  infinity  between  God  and  him?  ...  Is  there  not  obviously 
a void  between  the  monkey  and  man?” 

53  Hayes,  op.  c/7.,  p.  11.  Hayes  rightly  stresses  the  strong  practical  morality  of  all 
these  early  materialists.  He  explains  “this  curious  divorce  of  morals  from  beliefs”  by 
“what  later  sociologists  have  described  as  a time  lag”  (p.  130).  This  explanation, 
however,  appears  rather  weak  if  one  recalls  that  other  materialists  who,  like  Haeckel 
in  Germany  or  Vacher  de  Lapouge  in  France,  had  left  the  calm  of  studies  and 
research  for  propaganda  activities,  did  not  greatly  suffer  from  such  a time  lag;  that, 
on  the  other  hand,  their  contemporaries  who  were  not  tinged  by  their  materialistic 
doctrines,  such  as  Barres  and  Co.  in  France,  were  very  practical  adherents  of  the  per- 
verse brutality  which  swept  France  during  the  Dreyfus  Affair.  The  sudden  decay  of 
morals  in  the  Western  world  seems  to  be  caused  less  by  an  autonomous  development  of 
certain  “ideas”  than  by  a series  of  new  political  events  and  new  political  and  social 
problems  which  confronted  a bewildered  and  confused  humanity. 

64  Such  was  the  title  of  the  widely  read  book  of  Fr.  Galton,  published  in  1869,  which 
caused  a flood  of  literature  about  the  same  topic  in  the  following  decades. 



exemplars  would  develop  into  geniuses  and  supermen,  was  one  of  the  many 
“ideas”  produced  by  frustrated  liberal  intellectuals  in  their  dreams  of  re- 
placing the  old  governing  classes  by  a new  “elite”  through  nonpolitical 
means.  At  the  end  of  the  century,  writers  treated  political  topics  in  terms 
of  biology  and  zoology  as  a matter  of  course,  and  zoologists  wrote  “Bio- 
logical Views  of  our  Foreign  Policy”  as  though  they  had  detected  an  in- 
fallible guide  for  statesmen.65  All  of  them  put  forward  new  ways  to  control 
and  regulate  the  “survival  of  the  fittest”  in  accordance  with  the  national  in- 
terests of  the  English  people.60 

The  most  dangerous  aspect  of  these  evolutionist  doctrines  is  that  they 
combined  the  inheritance  concept  with  the  insistence  on  personal  achieve- 
ment and  individual  character  which  had  been  so  important  for  the  self- 
respect  of  the  nineteenth-century  middle  class.  This  middle  class  wanted 
scientists  who  could  prove  that  the  great  men,  not  the  aristocrats,  were  the 
true  representatives  of  the  nation,  in  whom  the  “genius  of  the  race  was 
personified.  These  scientists  provided  an  ideal  escape  from  political  re- 
sponsibility when  they  “proved”  the  early  statement  of  Benjamin  Disraeli 
that  the  great  man  is  “the  personification  of  race,  its  choice  exemplar.”  The 
development  of  this  “genius”  found  its  logical  end  when  another  disciple 
of  evolutionism  simply  declared:  “The  Englishman  is  the  Overman  and  the 
history  of  England  is  the  history  of  his  evolution.”  67 

It  is  as  significant  for  English  as  it  was  for  German  race-thinking  that  it 
originated  among  middle-class  writers  and  not  the  nobility,  that  it  was  bom 
of  the  desire  to  extend  the  benefits  of  noble  standards  to  all  classes  and  that 
it  was  nourished  by  true  national  feelings.  In  this  respect,  Carlyle’s  ideas  on 
the  genius  and  hero  were  really  more  the  weapons  of  a “social  reformer” 
than  the  doctrines  of  the  “Father  of  British  Imperialism,”  a very  unjust 
accusation,  indeed.68  His  hero  worship  which  earned  him  wide  audiences  in 
both  England  and  in  Germany,  had  the  same  sources  as  the  personality 
worship  of  German  romanticism.  It  was  the  same  assertion  and  glorification 
of  the  innate  greatness  of  the  individual  character  independent  of  his  social 
environment.  Among  the  men  who  influenced  the  colonial  movement  from 

55  “A  Biological  View  of  Our  Foreign  Policy”  was  published  by  P.  Charles  Michel  in 
Saturday  Review,  London,  February,  1896.  The  most  important  works  of  this  kind  are: 
Thomas  Huxley,  The  Struggle  for  Existence  in  Human  Society,  1888.  His  main  thesis: 
The  fall  of  civilizations  is  necessary  only  as  long  as  birthrate  is  uncontrolled.  Benjamin 
Kidd,  Social  Evolution,  1894.  John  B.  Crozier,  History  of  Intellectual  Development  on 
the  Lines  of  Modern  Evolution,  1897-1901.  Karl  Pearson  ( National  Life,  1901),  Pro- 
fessor of  Eugenics  at  London  University,  was  among  the  first  to  describe  progress  as  a 
kind  of  impersonal  monster  which  devours  everything  that  happens  to  be  in  its  way. 
Charles  H.  Harvey,  The  Biology  of  British  Politics,  1904,  argues  that  by  strict  control 
of  the  “struggle  for  life”  within  the  nation,  a nation  could  become  all-powerful  for  the 
inevitable  fight  with  other  people  for  existence. 

58  Sec  especially  K.  Pearson,  op.  cit.  But  Fr.  Galton  had  already  stated:  “I  wish  to 
emphasize  the  fact  that  the  improvement  of  the  natural  gifts  of  future  generations  of 
the  human  race  is  largely  under  our  control”  (op.  cit.,  ed.  1892,  p.  xxvi). 

87  Testament  of  John  Davidson,  1908. 

68  C.  A.  Bodelsen,  Studies  in  Mid-Victorian  Imperialism,  1924,  pp.  22  ff. 



the  middle  of  the  nineteenth  century  until  the  outbreak  of  actual  imperialism 
at  its  end,  not  one  has  escaped  the  influence  of  Carlyle,  but  not  one  can  be 
accused  of  preaching  outspoken  racism.  Carlyle  himself,  in  his  essay  on  the 
“Nigger  Question”  is  concerned  with  means  to  help  the  West  Indies  produce 
“heroes.”  Charles  Dilke,  whose  Greater  Britain  (1869)  is  sometimes  taken 
as  the  beginning  of  imperialism,59  was  an  advanced  radical  who  glorified  the 
English  colonists  as  being  part  of  the  British  nation,  as  against  those  who 
would  look  down  upon  them  and  their  lands  as  mere  colonies.  J.  R.  Seeley, 
whose  Expansion  of  England  (1883)  sold  80,000  copies  in  less  than  two 
years,  still  respects  the  Hindus  as  a foreign  people  and  distinguishes  them 
clearly  from  “barbarians.”  Even  Froude,  whose  admiration  for  the  Boers, 
the  first  white  people  to  be  converted  clearly  to  the  tribal  philosophy  of 
racism,  might  appear  suspect,  opposed  too  many  rights  for  South  Africa 
because  “self-government  in  South  Africa  meant  the  government  of  the 
natives  by  the  European  colonists  and  that  is  not  self-government.”  60 

Very  much  as  in  Germany,  English  nationalism  was  born  and  stimulated 
by  a middle  class  which  had  never  entirely  emancipated  itself  from  the 
nobility  and  therefore  bore  the  first  germs  of  race-thinking.  But  unlike 
Germany,  whose  lack  of  unity  made  necessary  an  ideological  wall  to  sub- 
stitute for  historical  or  geographical  facts,  the  British  Isles  were  completely 
separated  from  the  surrounding  world  by  natural  frontiers  and  England  as 
a nation  had  to  devise  a theory  of  unity  among  people  who  lived  in  far-flung 
colonies  beyond  the  seas,  separated  from  the  mother  country  by  thousands 
of  miles.  The  only  link  between  them  was  common  descent,  common  origin, 
common  language.  The  separation  of  the  United  States  had  shown  that  these 
links  in  themselves  do  not  guarantee  domination;  and  not  only  America, 
other  colonies  too,  though  not  with  the  same  violence,  showed  strong 
tendencies  toward  developing  along  different  constitutional  lines  from  the 
mother  country.  In  order  to  save  these  former  British  nationals,  Dilke,  in- 
fluenced by  Carlyle,  spoke  of  “Saxondom,”  a word  that  seemed  able  to  win 
back  even  the  people  of  the  United  States,  to  whom  one-third  of  his  book  is 
devoted.  Being  a radical,  Dilke  could  act  as  though  the  War  of  Independence 
had  not  been  a war  between  two  nations,  but  the  English  form  of  eighteenth- 
century  civil  war,  in  which  he  belatedly  sided  with  the  Republicans.  For 
here  lies  one  of  the  reasons  for  the  surprising  fact  that  social  reformers  and 
radicals  were  the  promoters  of  nationalism  in  England:  they  wanted  to  keep 
the  colonies  not  only  because  they  thought  they  were  necessary  outlets  for 
the  lower  classes;  they  actually  wanted  to  retain  the  influence  on  the  mother 
country  which  these  more  radical  sons  of  the  British  Isles  exercised.  This 
motif  is  strong  with  Froude,  who  wished  “to  retain  the  colonies  because  he 
thought  it  possible  to  reproduce  in  them  a simpler  state  of  society  and  a 
nobler  way  of  life  than  were  possible  in  industrial  England,”  61  and  it  had  a 

59  E.  H.  Damce,  The  Victorian  Illusion,  1928.  “Imperialism  began  with  a book  . . . 
Dilke’s  Greater  Britain.” 

00  “Two  Lectures  on  South  Africa,”  in  Short  Studies  on  Great  Subjects , 1867-1882. 

61  C.  A.  Bodelsen,  op.  cit.,  p.  199. 



definite  impact  on  Seeley’s  Expansion  of  England:  “When  we  have  accus- 
tomed ourselves  to  contemplate  the  whole  Empire  together  and  we  call  it  all 
England  we  shall  see  that  there  too  is  a United  States.”  Whatever  later  polit- 
ical writers  may  nave  used  “Saxondom”  for,  in  Dilke’s  work  it  had  a genuine 
political  meaning  for  a nation  that  was  no  longer  held  together  by  a limited 
country.  “The  idea  which  in  all  the  length  of  my  travels  has  been  at  once  my 
fellow  and  my  guide — the  key  wherewith  to  unlock  the  hidden  things  of 
strange  new  lands— is  the  conception  ...  of  the  grandeur  of  our  race 
already  girdling  the  earth,  which  it  is  destined  perhaps,  eventually  to  over- 
spread” (Preface).  For  Dilke,  common  origin,  inheritance,  “grandeur  of 
race”  were  neither  physical  facts  nor  the  key  to  history  but  a much-needed 
guide  in  the  present  world,  the  only  reliable  link  in  a boundless  space. 

Because  English  colonists  had  spread  all  over  the  earth,  it  happened  that 
the  most  dangerous  concept  of  nationalism,  the  idea  of  “national  mission,” 
was  especially  strong  in  England.  Although  national  mission  as  such  de- 
veloped for  a long  while  untinged  by  racial  influences  in  all  countries  where 
peoples  aspired  to  nationhood,  it  proved  finally  to  have  a peculiarly  close 
affinity  to  race-thinking.  The  above-quoted  English  nationalists  may  be  con- 
sidered borderline  cases  in  the  light  of  later  experience.  In  themselves,  they 
were  not  more  harmful  than,  for  example,  Auguste  Comte  in  France  when 
he  expressed  the  hope  for  a united,  organized,  regenerated  humanity  under 
the  leadership — presidence — of  France.02  They  do  not  give  up  the  idea  of 
mankind,  though  they  think  England  is  the  supreme  guarantee  for  humanity. 
They  could  not  help  but  overstress  this  nationalistic  concept  because  of  its 
inherent  dissolution  of  the  bond  between  soil  and  people  implied  in  the  mis- 
sion idea,  a dissolution  which  for  English  politics  was  not  a propagated 
ideology  but  an  established  fact  with  which  every  statesman  had  to  reckon. 
What  separates  them  definitely  from  later  racists  is  that  none  of  them  was 
ever  seriously  concerned  with  discrimination  against  other  peoples  as  lower 
races,  if  only  for  the  reason  that  the  countries  they  were  talking  about, 
Canada  and  Australia,  were  almost  empty  and  had  no  serious  population 

It  is,  therefore,  not  by  accident  that  the  first  English  statesman  who  re- 
peatedly stressed  his  belief  in  races  and  race  superiority  as  a determining 
factor  of  history  and  politics  was  a man  who  without  particular  interest  in 
the  colonies  and  the  English  colonists — “the  colonial  deadweight  which  we 
do  not  govern” — wanted  to  extend  British  imperial  power  to  Asia  and, 
indeed,  forcefully  strengthened  the  position  of  Great  Britain  in  the  only 
colony  with  a grave  population  and  cultural  problem.  It  was  Benjamin 
Disraeli  who  made  the  Queen  of  England  the  Empress  of  India;  he  was 
the  first  English  statesman  who  regarded  India  as  the  cornerstone  of  an 
Empire  and  who  wanted  to  cut  the  ties  which  linked  the  English  people 
to  the  nations  of  the  Continent.03  Thereby  he  laid  one  of  the  foundation 

62  In  his  Discours  sur  l’ Ensemble  du  Positivisme,  1848,  pp.  384  ff. 

«3  “Power  and  influence  we  should  exercise  in  Asia;  consequently  in  Western 
Europe”  (W.  F.  Monypenny  and  G.  E.  Buckle,  The  Life  of  Benjamin  Disraeli,  Earl  of 



stones  for  a fundamental  change  in  British  rule  in  India.  This  colony  had 
been  governed  with  the  usual  ruthlessness  of  conquerors — men  whom  Burke 
had  called  “the  breakers  of  the  law  in  India.”  It  was  now  to  receive  a care- 
fully planned  administration  which  aimed  at  the  establishment  of  a permanent 
government  by  administrative  measures.  This  experiment  has  brought  Eng- 
land very  close  to  the  danger  against  which  Burke  had  warned,  that  the 
“breakers  of  the  law  in  India”  might  become  “the  makers  of  law  for  Eng- 
land.” 0i  For  all  those,  to  whom  there  was  “no  transaction  in  the  history  of 

England  of  which  we  have  more  just  cause  to  be  proud  . . . than  the  es- 

tablishment of  the  Indian  Empire,”  held  liberty  and  equality  to  be  “big 
names  for  a small  thing.”  65 

The  policy  introduced  by  Disraeli  signified  the  establishment  of  an  exclu- 
sive caste  in  a foreign  country  whose  only  function  was  rule  and  not  coloniza- 
tion. For  the  realization  of  this  conception  which  Disraeli  did  not  live  to  see 
accomplished,  racism  would  indeed  be  an  indispensable  tool.  It  foreshadowed 
the  menacing  transformation  of  the  people  from  a nation  into  an  “unmixed 
race  of  a first-rate  organization”  that  felt  itself  to  be  “the  aristocracy  of 
nature” — to  repeat  in  Disraeli’s  own  words  quoted  above.66 

What  we  have  followed  so  far  is  the  story  of  an  opinion  in  which  we 

see  only  now,  after  all  the  terrible  experiences  of  our  times,  the  first  dawn 

of  racism.  But  although  racism  has  revived  elements  of  race-thinking  in  every 
country,  it  is  not  the  history  of  an  idea  endowed  by  some  “immanent  logic” 
with  which  we  were  concerned.  Race-thinking  was  a source  of  convenient 
arguments  for  varying  political  conflicts,  but  it  never  possessed  any  kind  of 
monopoly  over  the  political  life  of  the  respective  nations;  it  sharpened  and 
exploited  existing  conflicting  interests  or  existing  political  problems,  but  it 
never  created  new  conflicts  or  produced  new  categories  of  political  think- 
ing. Racism  sprang  from  experiences  and  political  constellations  which  were 
still  unknown  and  would  have  been  utterly  strange  even  to  such  devoted 
defenders  of  “race”  as  Gobineau  or  Disraeli.  There  is  an  abyss  between 
the  men  of  brilliant  and  facile  conceptions  and  men  of  brutal  deeds  and 
active  bestiality  which  no  intellectual  explanation  is  able  to  bridge.  It  is 
highly  probable  that  the  thinking  in  terms  of  race  would  have  disappeared 
in  due  time  together  with  other  irresponsible  opinions  of  the  nineteenth  cen- 
tury, if  the  “scramble  for  Africa”  and  the  new  era  of  imperialism  had  not 
exposed  Western  humanity  to  new  and  shocking  experiences.  Imperialism 

Beacons  field,  New  York,  1929,  II,  210).  But  “If  ever  Europe  by  her  shortsightedness 
falls  into  an  inferior  and  exhausted  state,  for  England  there  will  remain  an  illustrious 
future”  {Ibid.,  I,  Book  IV,  ch.  2).  For  “England  is  no  longer  a mere  European  power 
. . . she  is  really  more  an  Asiatic  power  than  a European.”  {Ibid.,  II,  201). 

64  Burke,  op.  cit.,  pp.  42-43:  “The  power  of  the  House  of  Commons  ...  is  indeed 
great;  and  long  may  it  be  able  to  preserve  its  greatness  . . . and  it  will  do  so,  as  long 
as  it  can  keep  the  breaker  of  the  law  in  India  from  becoming  the  maker  of  law  for 

65  Sir  James  F.  Stephen,  op.  cit.,  p.  253,  and  passim;  see  also  his  “Foundations  of 
the  Government  of  India,”  1883,  in  The  Nineteenth  Century,  LXXX. 

60  For  Disraeli’s  racism,  compare  chapter  III. 



would  have  necessitated  the  invention  of  racism  as  the  only  possible  “ex- 
planation” and  excuse  for  its  deeds,  even  if  no  race-thinking  had  ever  existed 
in  the  civilized  world. 

Since,  however,  race-thinking  did  exist,  it  proved  to  be  a powerful  help 
to  racism.  The  very  existence  of  an  opinion  which  could  boast  of  a certain 
tradition  served  to  hide  the  destructive  forces  of  the  new  doctrine  which, 
without  this  appearance  of  national  respectability  or  the  seeming  sanction  of 
tradition,  might  have  disclosed  its  utter  incompatibility  with  all  Western 
political  and  moral  standards  of  the  past,  even  before  it  was  allowed  to 
destroy  the  comity  of  European  nations. 


Race  and  Bureaucracy 

Two  new  devices  for  political  organization  and  rule  over  foreign  peoples 
were  discovered  during  the  first  decades  of  imperialism.  One  was  race  as 
a principle  of  the  body  politic,  and  the  other  bureaucracy  as  a principle  of 
foreign  domination.  Without  race  as  a substitute  for  the  nation,  the  scramble 
for  Africa  and  the  investment  fever  might  well  have  remained  the  purpose- 
less “dance  of  death  and  trade”  (Joseph  Conrad)  of  all  gold  rushes.  Without 
bureaucracy  as  a substitute  for  government,  the  British  possession  of  India 
might  well  have  been  left  to  the  recklessness  of  the  “breakers  of  law  in  India” 
(Burke)  without  changing  the  political  climate  of  an  entire  era. 

Both  discoveries  were  actually  made  on  the  Dark  Continent.  Race  was  the 
emergency  explanation  of  human  beings  whom  no  European  or  civilized 
man  could  understand  and  whose  humanity  so  frightened  and  humiliated 
the  immigrants  that  they  no  longer  cared  to  belong  to  the  same  human 
species.  Race  was  the  Boers’  answer  to  the  overwhelming  monstrosity  of 
Africa — a whole  continent  populated  and  overpopulated  by  savages — an 
explanation  of  the  madness  which  grasped  and  illuminated  them  like  “a 
flash  of  lightning  in  a serene  sky:  ‘Exterminate  all  the  brutes.’  This  an- 
swer resulted  in  the  most  terrible  massacres  in  recent  history,  the  Boers’ 
extermination  of  Hottentot  tribes,  the  wild  murdering  by  Carl  Peters  in 
German  Southeast  Africa,  the  decimation  of  the  peaceful  Congo  population 
— from  20  to  40  million  reduced  to  8 million  people;  and  finally,  perhaps 
worst  of  all,  it  resulted  in  the  triumphant  introduction  of  such  means  of 
pacification  into  ordinary,  respectable  foreign  policies.  What  head  of  a 
civilized  state  would  ever  before  have  uttered  the  exhortation  of  William  II 
to  a German  expeditionary  contingent  fighting  the  Boxer  insurrection  in 
1900:  “Just  as  the  Huns  a thousand  years  ago,  under  the  leadership  of 
Attila,  gained  a reputation  by  virtue  of  which  they  still  live  in  history,  so 
may  the  German  name  become  known  in  such  a manner  in  China  that  no 
Chinese  will  ever  again  dare  to  look  askance  at  a German.”  2 

1 Joseph  Conrad,  “Heart  of  Darkness”  in  Youth  and  Other  Tales , 1902,  is  the  most 
illuminating  work  on  actual  race  experience  in  Africa. 

2 Quoted  from  Carlton  J.  Hayes,  A Generation  of  Materialism,  New  York,  1941, 
p.  338. — An  even  worse  case  is  of  course  that  of  Leopold  II  of  Belgium,  responsible 
for  the  blackest  pages  in  the  history  of  Africa.  “There  was  only  one  man  who  could 
be  accused  of  the  outrages  which  reduced  the  native  population  fof  the  Congo]  from 
between  20  to  40  million  in  1890  to  8,500,000  in  1911— Leopold  II.”  See  Selwyn 
James,  South  of  the  Congo,  New  York,  1943,  p.  305. 



While  race,  whether  as  a home-grown  ideology  in  Europe  or  an  emer- 
gency explanation  for  shattering  experiences,  has  always  attracted  the  worst 
elements  in  Western  civilization,  bureaucracy  was  discovered  by  and  first 
attracted  the  best,  and  sometimes  even  the  most  clear-sighted,  strata  of  the 
I uropean  intelligentsia.  T he  administrator  who  ruled  by  reports  3 and  de- 
crees in  more  hostile  secrecy  than  any  oriental  despot  grew  out  of  a tradi- 
tion of  military  discipline  in  the  midst  of  ruthless  and  lawless  men,  for  a 
long  time  he  had  lived  by  the  honest,  earnest  boyhood  ideals  of  a modern 
knight  in  shining  armor  sent  to  protect  helpless  and  primitive  people.  And 
he  fulfilled  this  task,  for  better  or  worse,  as  long  as  he  moved  in  a world 
dominated  by  the  old  “trinity— war,  trade  and  piracy’’  (Goethe),  and  not 
in  a complicated  game  of  far-reaching  investment  policies  which  demanded 
the  domination  of  one  people,  not  as  before  for  the  sake  of  its  own  riches, 
but  for  the  sake  of  another  country’s  wealth.  Bureaucracy  was  the  organiza- 
tion of  the  great  game  of  expansion  in  which  every  area  was  considered  a 
stepping-stone  to  further  involvements  and  every  people  an  instrument  for 
further  conquest. 

Although  in  the  end  racism  and  bureaucracy  proved  to  be  interrelated 
in  many  ways,  they  were  discovered  and  developed  independently.  No  one 
who  in  one  way  or  the  other  was  implicated  in  their  perfection  ever  came 
to  realize  the  full  range  of  potentialities  of  power  accumulation  and  destruc- 
tion that  this  combination  alone  provided.  Lord  Cromer,  who  in  Egypt 
changed  from  an  ordinary  British  charge  d’affaires  into  an  imperialist 
bureaucrat,  would  no  more  have  dreamed  of  combining  administration  with 
massacre  (“administrative  massacres”  as  Carthill  bluntly  put  it  forty  years 
later),  than  the  race  fanatics  of  South  Africa  thought  of  organizing  massacres 
for  the  purpose  of  establishing  a circumscribed,  rational  political  community 
(as  the  Nazis  did  in  the  extermination  camps). 

t:  The  Phantom  IV  or  Id  of  the  Dark  Continent 

oi»  to  the  end  of  the  last  century,  the  colonial  enterprises  of  the  seafaring 
1 uropean  peoples  produced  two  outstanding  forms  of  achievement:  in  re- 
cently discovered  and  sparsely  populated  territories,  the  founding  of  new 
settlements  which  adopted  the  legal  and  political  institutions  of  the  mother 
country;  and  in  well-known  though  exotic  countries  in  the  midst  of  foreign 
peoples,  the  establishment  of  maritime  and  trade  stations  whose  only  func- 
tion was  to  facilitate  the  never  very  peaceful  exchange  of  the  treasures  of 
the  world.  Colonization  took  place  in  America  and  Australia,  the  two  con- 
tinents that,  without  a culture  and  a history  of  their  own,  had  fallen  into  the 
hands  of  I uropcans.  I radc  stations  were  characteristic  of  Asia  where  for 
centuries  Europeans  had  shown  no  ambition  for  permanent  rule  or  inten- 

See  A.  Carihills  descriplion  of  the  “Indian  system  of  government  by  reports”  in 
The  Lost  Dominion,  1924,  p.  70. 



tions  of  conquest,  decimation  of  the  native  population,  and  permanent 
settlement.4  Both  forms  of  overseas  enterprise  evolved  in  a long  steady 
process  which  extended  over  almost  four  centuries,  during  which  the  settle- 
ments gradually  achieved  independence,  and  the  possession  of  trade  stations 
shifted  among  the  nations  according  to  their  relative  weakness  or  strength 
in  Europe. 

The  only  continent  Europe  had  not  touched  in  the  course  of  its  colonial 
history  was  the  Dark  Continent  of  Africa.  Its  northern  shores,  populated  by 
Arabic  peoples  and  tribes,  were  well  known  and  had  belonged  to  the  Euro- 
pean sphere  of  influence  in  one  way  or  another  since  the  days  of  antiquity. 
Too  well  populated  to  attract  settlers,  and  too  poor  to  be  exploited,  these 
regions  suffered  all  kinds  of  foreign  rule  and  anarchic  neglect,  but  oddly 
enough  never — after  the  decline  of  the  Egyptian  Empire  and  the  destruction 
of  Carthage — achieved  authentic  independence  and  reliable  political  organ- 
ization. European  countries  tried  time  and  again,  it  is  true,  to  reach  beyond 
the  Mediterranean  to  impose  their  rule  on  Arabic  lands  and  their  Chris- 
tianity on  Moslem  peoples,  but  they  never  attempted  to  treat  North  African 
territories  like  overseas  possessions.  On  the  contrary,  they  frequently  aspired 
to  incorporate  them  into  the  respective  mother  country.  This  age-old  tradi- 
tion, still  followed  in  recent  times  by  Italy  and  France,  was  broken  in  the 
eighties  when  England  went  into  Egypt  to  protect  the  Suez  Canal  without 
any  intention  either  of  conquest  or  incorporation.  The  point  is  not  that 
Egypt  was  wronged  but  that  England  (a  nation  that  did  not  lie  on  the  shores 
of  the  Mediterranean)  could  not  possibly  have  been  interested  in  Egypt  as 
such,  but  needed  her  only  because  there  were  treasures  in  India. 

While  imperialism  changed  Egypt  from  a country  occasionally  coveted 
for  her  own  sake  into  a military  station  for  India  and  a stepping-stone  for 
further  expansion,  the  exact  opposite  happened  to  South  Africa.  Since  the 
seventeenth  century,  the  significance  of  the  Cape  of  Good  Hope  had  de- 
pended upon  India,  the  center  of  colonial  wealth;  any  nation  that  established 
trade  stations  there  needed  a maritime  station  on  the  Cape,  which  was  then 
abandoned  when  trade  in  India  was  liquidated.  At  the  end  of  the  eighteenth 
century,  the  British  East  India  Company  defeated  Portugal,  Holland,  and 
France  and  won  a trade  monopoly  in  India;  the  occupation  of  South  Africa 
followed  as  a matter  of  course.  If  imperialism  had  simply  continued  the  old 
trends  of  colonial  trade  (which  is  so  frequently  mistaken  for  imperialism), 
England  would  have  liquidated  her  position  in  South  Africa  with  the  opening 
of  the  Suez  Canal  in  1 869. 5 Although  today  South  Africa  belongs  to  the 

4 It  is  important  to  bear  in  mind  that  colonization  of  America  and  Australia  was 
accompanied  by  comparatively  short  periods  of  cruel  liquidation  because  of  the  na- 
tives’ numerical  weakness,  whereas  “in  understanding  the  genesis  of  modern  South 
African  society  it  is  of  the  greatest  importance  to  know  that  the  land  beyond  the 
Cape’s  borders  was  not  the  open  land  which  lay  before  the  Australian  squatter.  It  was 
already  an  area  of  settlement,  of  settlement  by  a great  Bantu  population.”  See  C.  W. 
de  Kiewiet,  A History  of  South  Africa,  Social  and  Economic  (Oxford,  1941),  p.  59. 

6 “As  late  as  1884  the  British  Government  had  still  been  willing  to  diminish  its 
authority  and  influence  in  South  Africa”  (De  Kiewiet,  op.  cit.,  p,  113). 



Commonwealth,  it  was  always  diflcrent  from  the  other  dominions;  fertility 
and  sparseness  of  population,  the  main  prerequisites  for  definite  settlement, 
were  lacking,  and  a single  elfort  to  settle  5,000  unemployed  Englishmen  at 
the  beginning  of  the  nineteenth  century  proved  a failure.  Not  only  did  the 
streams  of  emigrants  from  the  British  Isles  consistently  avoid  South  Africa 
throughout  the  nineteenth  century,  but  South  Africa  is  the  only  dominion 
from  which  a steady  stream  of  emigrants  has  gone  back  to  England  in  recent 
times.*  South  Africa,  which  became  the  “culture-bed  of  Imperialism” 
(Danicc),  was  never  claimed  by  England’s  most  radical  defenders  of  Saxon- 
dom”  and  it  did  not  figure  in  the  visions  of  her  most  romantic  dreamers  of 
an  Asiatic  Empire.  This  in  itself  shows  how  small  the  real  influence  of  pre- 
imperialist  colonial  enterprise  and  overseas  settlement  was  on  the  develop- 
ment of  imperialism  itself.  If  the  Cape  colony  had  remained  within  the 
framework  of  pre-imperialist  policies,  it  would  have  been  abandoned  at 
the  exact  moment  when  it  actually  became  all-important. 

Although  the  discoveries  of  gold  mines  and  diamond  fields  in  the  seventies 
and  eighties  would  have  had  little  consequence  in  themselves  if  they  had 
not  accidentally  acted  as  a catalytic  agent  for  imperialist  forces,  it  remains 
remarkable  that  the  imperialists’  claim  to  have  found  a permanent  solution 
to  the  problem  of  superfluity  was  initially  motivated  by  a rush  for  the  most 
superfluous  raw  material  on  earth.  Gold  hardly  has  a place  in  human  produc- 
tion and  is  of  no  importance  compared  with  iron,  coal,  oil,  and  rubber; 
instead,  it  is  the  most  ancient  symbol  of  mere  wealth.  In  its  uselessness  in 
industrial  production  it  bears  an  ironical  resemblance  to  the  superfluous 
money  that  financed  the  digging  of  gold  and  to  the  superfluous  men  who  did 
the  digging.  To  the  imperialists’  pretense  of  having  discovered  a permanent 
savior  for  a decadent  society  and  antiquated  political  organization,  it  added 
its  own  pretense  of  apparently  eternal  stability  and  independence  of  all 
functional  determinants.  It  was  significant  that  a society  about  to  part  with 
all  traditional  absolute  values  began  to  look  for  an  absolute  value  in  the 
world  of  economics  where,  indeed,  such  a thing  does  not  and  cannot  exist, 
since  everything  is  functional  by  definition.  This  delusion  of  an  absolute 
value  has  made  the  production  of  gold  since  ancient  times  the  business  of 

* The  following  table  of  British  immigration  to  and  emigration  from  South  Africa 
between  1924  and  1928  shows  that  Englishmen  had  a stronger  inclination  to  leave  the 
country  than  other  immigrants  and  that,  with  one  exception,  each  year  showed  a 
greater  number  of  British  people  leaving  the  country  than  coming  in: 








































These  figures  arc  quoted  from  Leonard  Barnes,  Caliban  in  Africa.  An  Impression  of 
Colour  Madness,  Philadelphia,  1931,  p.  59,  note. 



adventurers,  gamblers,  criminals,  of  elements  outside  the  pale  of  normal, 
sane  society.  The  new  turn  in  the  South  African  gold  rush  was  that  here 
the  luck-hunters  were  not  distinctly  outside  civilized  society  but,  on  the 
contrary,  very  clearly  a by-product  of  this  society,  an  inevitable  residue  of 
the  capitalist  system  and  even  the  representatives  of  an  economy  that  re- 
lentlessly produced  a superfluity  of  men  and  capital. 

The  superfluous  men,  “the  Bohemians  of  the  four  continents”  7 who  came 
rushing  down  to  the  Cape,  still  had  much  in  common  with  the  old  adven- 
turers. They  too  felt  “Ship  me  somewheres  east  of  Suez  where  the  best  is 
like  the  worst,  / Where  there  aren’t  no  Ten  Commandments,  an’  a man  can 
raise  a thirst.”  The  difference  was  not  their  morality  or  immorality,  but 
rather  that  the  decision  to  join  this  crowd  “of  all  nations  and  colors”  8 was 
no  longer  up  to  them;  that  they  had  not  stepped  out  of  society  but  had  been 
spat  out  by  it;  that  they  were  not  enterprising  beyond  the  permitted  limits 
of  civilization  but  simply  victims  without  use  or  function.  Their  only  choice 
had  been  a negative  one,  a decision  against  the  workers’  movements,  in 
which  the  best  of  the  superfluous  men  or  of  those  who  were  threatened  with 
superfluity  established  a kind  of  countersociety  through  which  men  could 
find  their  way  back  into  a human  world  of  fellowship  and  purpose.  They 
were  nothing  of  their  own  making,  they  were  like  living  symbols  of  what 
had  happened  to  them,  living  abstractions  and  witnesses  of  the  absurdity  of 
human  institutions.  They  were  not  individuals  like  the  old  adventurers,  they 
were  the  shadows  of  events  with  which  they  had  nothing  to  do. 

Like  Mr.  Kurtz  in  Conrad’s  “Heart  of  Darkness,”  they  were  “hollow  to 
the  core,”  “reckless  without  hardihood,  greedy  without  audacity  and  cruel 
without  courage.”  They  believed  in  nothing  and  “could  get  (themselves)  to 
believe  anything — anything.”  Expelled  from  a world  with  accepted  social 
values,  they  had  been  thrown  back  upon  themselves  and  still  had  nothing 
to  fall  back  upon  except,  here  and  there,  a streak  of  talent  which  made  them 
as  dangerous  as  Kurtz  if  they  were  ever  allowed  to  return  to  their  homelands. 
For  the  only  talent  that  could  possibly  burgeon  in  their  hollow  souls  was 
the  gift  of  fascination  which  makes  a “splendid  leader  of  an  extreme  party.” 
The  more  gifted  were  walking  incarnations  of  resentment  like  the  German 
Carl  Peters  (possibly  the  model  for  Kurtz),  who  openly  admitted  that  he 
“was  fed  up  with  being  counted  among  the  pariahs  and  wanted  to  belong  to 
a master  race.”  9 But  gifted  or  not,  they  were  all  “game  for  anything  from 
pitch  and  toss  to  wilful  murder”  and  to  them  their  fellow-men  were  “no 
more  one  way  or  another  than  that  fly  there.”  Thus  they  brought  with  them, 
or  they  learned  quickly,  the  code  of  manners  which  befitted  the  coming 
type  of  murderer  to  whom  the  only  unforgivable  sin  is  to  lose  his  temper. 

There  were,  to  be  sure,  authentic  gentlemen  among  them,  like  Mr.  Jones 
of  Conrad’s  Victory,  who  out  of  boredom  were  willing  to  pay  any  price  to 

7J.  A.  Froude,  “Leaves  from  a South  African  Journal”  (1874),  in  Short  Studies 
on  Great  Subjects,  1867-1882,  Vol.  IV. 

8 Ibid. 

9 Quoted  from  Paul  Ritter,  Kolonien  im  deutschen  Schrifttum,  1936,  Preface. 



inhabit  the  “world  of  hazard  and  adventure,”  or  like  Mr.  Heyst,  who  was 
drunk  with  contempt  for  everything  human  until  he  drifted  “like  a detached 
leaf  . . . without  ever  catching  on  to  anything.”  They  were  irresistibly 
attracted  by  a world  where  everything  was  a joke,  which  could  teach  them 
“the  Great  Joke"  that  is  “the  mastery  of  despair.”  The  perfect  gentleman 
and  the  perfect  .scoundrel  came  to  know  each  other  well  in  the  “great  wild 
jungle  without  law,”  and  they  found  themselves  “well-matched  in  their 
enormous  dissimilarity,  identical  souls  in  different  disguises.”  We  have  seen 
the  behavior  of  high  society  during  the  Dreyfus  Affair  and  watched  Disraeli 
discover  the  social  relationship  between  vice  and  crime;  here,  too,  we  have 
essentially  the  same  story  of  high  society  falling  in  love  with  its  own  under- 
world, and  of  the  criminal  feeling  elevated  when  by  civilized  coldness,  the 
avoidance  of  “unnecessary  exertion,”  and  good  manners  he  is  allowed  to 
create  a vicious,  refined  atmosphere  around  his  crimes.  This  refinement,  the 
very  contrast  between  the  brutality  of  the  crime  and  the  manner  of  carrying 
it  out,  becomes  the  bridge  of  deep  understanding  between  himself  and  the 
perfect  gentleman.  But  what,  after  all,  took  decades  to  achieve  in  Europe, 
because  of  the  delaying  effect  of  social  ethical  values,  exploded  with  the 
suddenness  of  a short  circuit  in  the  phantom  world  of  colonial  adventure. 

Outside  all  social  restraint  and  hypocrisy,  against  the  backdrop  of  native 
life,  the  gentleman  and  the  criminal  felt  not  only  the  closeness  of  men  who 
share  the  same  color  of  skin,  but  the  impact  of  a world  of  infinite  possibili- 
ties for  crimes  committed  in  the  spirit  of  play,  for  the  combination  of  horror 
and  laughter,  that  is  for  the  full  realization  of  their  own  phantom-like 
existence.  Native  life  lent  these  ghostlike  events  a seeming  guarantee  against 
all  consequences  because  anyhow  it  looked  to  these  men  like  a “mere  play  of 
shadows.  A play  of  shadows,  the  dominant  race  could  walk  through  un- 
affected and  disregarded  in  the  pursuit  of  its  incomprehensible  aims  and 

The  world  of  native  savages  was  a perfect  setting  for  men  who  had 
escaped  the  reality  of  civilization.  Under  a merciless  sun,  surrounded  by  an 
entirely  hostile  nature,  they  were  confronted  with  human  beings  who,  living 
without  the  future  of  a purpose  and  the  past  of  an  accomplishment,  were 
as  incomprehensible  as  the  inmates  of  a madhouse.  “The  prehistoric  man 
was  cursing  us,  praying  to  us,  welcoming  us — who  could  tell?  We  were 
cut  off  from  the  comprehension  of  our  surroundings;  we  glided  past  like 
phantoms,  wondering  and  secretly  appalled,  as  sane  men  would  be,  before 
an  enthusiastic  outbreak  in  a madhouse.  We  could  not  understand  because 
we  were  too  far  and  could  not  remember,  because  we  were  traveling  in  the 
night  of  first  ages,  of  those  ages  that  are  gone  leaving  hardly  a sign — and 
no  memories.  The  earth  seemed  unearthly,  . . . and  the  men  . . . No, 
they  were  not  inhuman.  Well,  you  know,  that  was  the  worst  of  it — this  sus- 
picion of  their  not  being  inhuman.  It  would  come  slowly  to  one.  They  howled 
and  leaped,  and  spun,  and  made  horrid  faces;  but  what  thrilled  you  was 
ju  the  thought  of  their  humanity — like  yours — the  thought  of  your  remote 
kinship  with  this  wild  and  passionate  uproar”  (“Heart  of  Darkness”). 



It  is  strange  that,  historically  speaking,  the  existence  of  “prehistoric  men” 
had  so  little  influence  on  Western  man  before  the  scramble  for  Africa.  It  is, 
however,  a matter  of  record  that  nothing  much  had  happened  as  long  as 
savage  tribes,  outnumbered  by  European  settlers,  had  been  exterminated,  as 
long  as  shiploads  of  Negroes  were  imported  as  slaves  into  the  Europe- 
determined  world  of  the  United  States,  or  even  as  long  as  only  individuals 
had  drifted  into  the  interior  of  the  Dark  Continent  where  the  savages  were 
numerous  enough  to  constitute  a world  of  their  own,  a world  of  folly,  to 
which  the  European  adventurer  added  the  folly  of  the  ivory  hunt.  Many  of 
these  adventurers  had  gone  mad  in  the  silent  wilderness  of  an  overpopulated 
continent  where  the  presence  of  human  beings  only  underlined  utter  soli- 
tude, and  where  an  untouched,  overwhelmingly  hostile  nature  that  nobody 
had  ever  taken  the  trouble  to  change  into  human  landscape  seemed  to  wait 
in  sublime  patience  “for  the  passing  away  of  the  fantastic  invasion”  of  man. 
But  their  madness  had  remained  a matter  of  individual  experience  and  with- 
out consequences. 

This  changed  with  the  men  who  arrived  during  the  scramble  for  Africa. 
These  were  no  longer  lonely  individuals;  “all  Europe  had  contributed  to  the 
making  of  (them).”  They  concentrated  on  the  southern  part  of  the  con- 
tinent where  they  met  the  Boers,  a Dutch  splinter  group  which  had  been 
almost  forgotten  by  Europe,  but  which  now  served  as  a natural  introduc- 
tion to  the  challenge  of  new  surroundings.  The  response  of  the  superfluous 
men  was  largely  determined  by  the  response  of  the  only  European  group 
that  ever,  though  in  complete  isolation,  had  to  live  in  a world  of  black 

The  Boers  are  descended  from  Dutch  settlers  who  in  the  middle  of  the 
seventeenth  century  were  stationed  at  the  Cape  to  provide  fresh  vegetables 
and  meat  for  ships  on  their  voyage  to  India.  A small  group  of  French 
Huguenots  was  all  that  followed  them  in  the  course  of  the  next  century,  so 
that  it  was  only  with  the  help  of  a high  birthrate  that  the  little  Dutch  splinter 
grew  into  a small  people.  Completely  isolated  from  the  current  of  European 
history,  they  set  out  on  a path  such  “as  few  nations  have  trod  before  them, 
and  scarcely  one  trod  with  success.”  10 

The  two  main  material  factors  in  the  development  of  the  Boer  people  were 
the  extremely  bad  soil  which  could  be  used  only  for  extensive  cattle-raising, 
and  the  very  large  black  population  which  was  organized  in  tribes  and  lived 
as  nomad  hunters.11  The  bad  soil  made  close  settlement  impossible  and 
prevented  the  Dutch  peasant  settlers  from  following  the  village  organization 
of  their  homeland.  Large  families,  isolated  from  each  other  by  broad  spaces 
of  wilderness,  were  forced  into  a kind  of  clan  organization  and  only  the  ever- 
present threat  of  a common  foe,  the  black  tribes  which  by  far  outnumbered 

10  Lord  Selbourne  in  1907:  “The  white  people  of  South  Africa  are  committed  to 
such  a path  as  few  nations  have  trod  before  them,  and  scarcely  one  trod  with  success.” 
See  Kiewiet,  op.  cit.,  chapter  6. 

11  See  especially  chapter  iii  of  Kiewiet,  op.  cit . 



ihc  white  settlers,  deterred  these  clans  from  active  war  against  each  other. 
I he  solution  to  the  double  problem  of  lack  of  fertility  and  abundance  of 
iuti\cs  was  slavery.12 

Slavery,  however,  is  a very  inadequate  word  to  describe  what  actually 
happened.  First  of  all,  slavery,  though  it  domesticated  a certain  part  of  the 
savage  population,  never  got  hold  of  all  of  them,  so  the  Boers  were  never 
able  to  forget  their  first  horrible  fright  before  a species  of  men  whom  human 
pride  and  the  sense  of  human  dignity  could  not  allow  them  to  accept  as 
fellow-men.  This  fright  of  something  like  oneself  that  still  under  no  circum- 
stances ought  to  be  like  oneself  remained  at  the  basis  of  slavery  and  became 
the  basis  for  a race  society. 

Mankind  remembers  the  history  of  peoples  but  has  only  legendary 
knowledge  of  prehistoric  tribes.  The  word  “race”  has  a precise  meaning  only 
when  and  where  peoples  are  confronted  with  such  tribes  of  which  they  have 
no  historical  record  and  which  do  not  know  any  history  of  their  own.  Whether 
these  represent  “prehistoric  man,”  the  accidentally  surviving  specimens  of 
the  first  forms  of  human  life  on  earth,  or  whether  they  are  the  “posthistoric” 
survivors  of  some  unknown  disaster  which  ended  a civilization  we  do  not 
know.  They  certainly  appeared  rather  like  the  survivors  of  one  great  catas- 
trophe which  might  have  been  followed  by  smaller  disasters  until  cata- 
strophic monotony  seemed  to  be  a natural  condition  of  human  life.  At  any 
rate,  races  in  this  sense  were  found  only  in  regions  where  nature  was  par- 
ticularly hostile.  What  made  them  different  from  other  human  beings  was 
not  at  all  the  color  of  their  skin  but  the  fact  that  they  behaved  like  a part  of 
nature,  that  they  treated  nature  as  their  undisputed  master,  that  they  had 
not  created  a human  world,  a human  reality,  and  that  therefore  nature  had 
remained,  in  all  its  majesty,  the  only  overwhelming  reality — compared  to 
which  they  appeared  to  be  phantoms,  unreal  and  ghostlike.  They  were,  as 
it  were,  “natural”  human  beings  who  lacked  the  specifically  human  character, 
the  specifically  human  reality,  so  that  when  European  men  massacred  them 
they  somehow  were  not  aware  that  they  had  committed  murder. 

Moreover,  the  senseless  massacre  of  native  tribes  on  the  Dark  Continent 
was  quite  in  keeping  with  the  traditions  of  these  tribes  themselves.  Ex- 
termination of  hostile  tribes  had  been  the  rule  in  all  African  native  wars, 
and  it  was  not  abolished  when  a black  leader  happened  to  unite  several 
tribes  under  his  leadership.  King  Tchaka,  who  at  the  beginning  of  the  nine- 
teenth century  united  the  Zulu  tribes  in  an  extraordinarily  disciplined  and 
warlike  organization,  established  neither  a people  nor  a nation  of  Zulus. 
He  only  succeeded  in  exterminating  more  than  one  million  members  of 
weaker  tribes.13  Since  discipline  and  military  organization  by  themselves 

5 Slaves  and  Hottentots  together  provoked  remarkable  changes  in  the  thought  and 
habits  of  the  colonists,  for  climate  and  geography  were  not  alone  in  forming  the  dis- 
tinctive traits  of  the  Boer  race.  Slaves  and  droughts,  Hottentots  and  isolation,  cheap 
labor  and  land,  combined  to  create  the  institutions  and  habits  of  South  African  society. 
I he  sons  and  daughters  born  to  sturdy  Hollanders  and  Huguenots  learned  to  look 
upon  the  labour  of  the  field  and  upon  all  hard  physical  toil  as  the  functions  of  a 
servile  race’  (Kiewiet,  op.  cit.,  p.  21). 

13  See  James,  op.  cit.,  p.  28. 



cannot  establish  a political  body,  the  destruction  remained  an  unrecorded 
episode  in  an  unreal,  incomprehensible  process  which  cannot  be  accepted 
by  man  and  therefore  is  not  remembered  by  human  history. 

Slavery  in  the  case  of  the  Boers  was  a form  of  adjustment  of  a European 
people  to  a black  race,14  and  only  superficially  resembled  those  historical 
instances  when  it  had  been  a result  of  conquest  or  slave  trade.  No  body 
politic,  no  communal  organization  kept  the  Boers  together,  no  territory  was 
definitely  colonized,  and  the  black  slaves  did  not  serve  any  white  civilization. 
The  Boers  had  lost  both  their  peasant  relationship  to  the  soil  and  their 
civilized  feeling  for  human  fellowship.  “Each  man  fled  the  tyranny  of  his 
neighbor’s  smoke”  15  was  the  rule  of  the  country,  and  each  Boer  family 
repeated  in  complete  isolation  the  general  pattern  of  Boer  experience  among 
black  savages  and  ruled  over  them  in  absolute  lawlessness,  unchecked  by 
“kind  neighbors  ready  to  cheer  you  or  to  fall  on  you  stepping  delicately 
between  the  butcher  and  the  policeman,  in  the  holy  terror  of  scandal  and 
gallows  and  lunatic  asylums”  (Conrad).  Ruling  over  tribes  and  living 
parasitically  from  their  labor,  they  came  to  occupy  a position  very  similar 
to  that  of  the  native  tribal  leaders  whose  domination  they  had  liquidated. 
The  natives,  at  any  rate,  recognized  them  as  a higher  form  of  tribal  leader- 
ship, a kind  of  natural  deity  to  which  one  has  to  submit;  so  that  the  divine 
role  of  the  Boers  was  as  much  imposed  by  their  black  slaves  as  assumed 
freely  by  themselves.  It  is  a matter  of  course  that  to  these  white  gods  of 
black  slaves  each  law  meant  only  deprivation  of  freedom,  government  only 
restriction  of  the  wild  arbitrariness  of  the  clan.10  In  the  natives  the  Boers 
discovered  the  only  “raw  material”  which  Africa  provided  in  abundance 
and  they  used  them  not  for  the  production  of  riches  but  for  the  mere  essen- 
tials of  human  existence. 

The  black  slaves  in  South  Africa  quickly  became  the  only  part  of  the 
population  that  actually  worked.  Their  toil  was  marked  by  all  the  known 
disadvantages  of  slave  labor,  such  as  lack  of  initiative,  laziness,  neglect  of 
tools,  and  general  inefficiency.  Their  work  therefore  barely  sufficed  to  keep 
their  masters  alive  and  never  reached  the  comparative  abundance  which  nur- 
tures civilization.  It  was  this  absolute  dependence  on  the  work  of  others 
and  complete  contempt  for  labor  and  productivity  in  any  form  that  trans- 
formed the  Dutchman  into  the  Boer  and  gave  his  concept  of  race  a distinctly 
economic  meaning.17 

14  “The  true  history  of  South  African  colonization  describes  the  growth,  not  of  a 
settlement  of  Europeans,  but  of  a totally  new  and  unique  society  of  different  races  and 
colours  and  cultural  attainments,  fashioned  by  conflicts  of  racial  heredity  and  the 
oppositions  of  unequal  social  groups”  (Kicwiet,  op.  cit.,  p.  19). 

15  Kiewiet,  op.  cit.,  p.  19. 

16  “[The  Boers’]  society  was  rebellious,  but  it  was  not  revolutionary”  {ibid.,  p.  58). 

17  “Little  effort  was  made  to  raise  the  standard  of  living  or  increase  the  opportunities 
of  the  class  of  slaves  and  servants.  In  this  manner,  the  limited  wealth  of  the  Colony 
became  the  privilege  of  its  white  population.  . . . Thus  early  did  South  Africa  learn 
that  a self-conscious  group  may  escape  the  worst  effects  of  life  in  a poor  and  unpros- 
perous  land  by  turning  distinctions  of  race  and  colour  into  devices  for  social  and  eco- 
nomic discrimination”  {ibid.,  p.  22). 



| he  Boers  were  the  first  European  group  to  become  completely  alienated 
from  the  pride  which  Western  man  felt  in  living  in  a world  created  and 
fabricated  b\  himself.1*  'I  hey  treated  the  natives  as  raw  material  and  lived 
on  them  as  one  might  live  on  the  fruits  of  wild  trees.  Lazy  and  unproductive, 
the)  a creed  to  \egetate  on  essentially  t tic  same  level  as  the  black  tribes  had 
\e  get  a ted  for  thousands  of  years.  The  great  horror  which  had  seized  European 
men  at  their  first  confrontation  with  native  life  was  stimulated  by  precisely 
this  touch  of  inhumanity  among  human  beings  who  apparently  were  as  much 
a part  of  nature  as  wild  animals.  The  Boers  lived  on  their  slaves  exactly  the 
wa>  natives  had  lived  on  an  unprepared  and  unchanged  nature.  When  the 
Boers,  in  their  fright  and  misery,  decided  to  use  these  savages  as  though 
they  were  just  another  form  of  animal  life,  they  embarked  upon  a process 
which  could  only  end  with  their  own  degeneration  into  a white  race  living 
beside  and  together  with  black  races  from  whom  in  the  end  they  would 
dilTer  only  in  the  color  of  their  skin. 

The  poor  whites  in  South  Africa,  who  in  1923  formed  10  per  cent  of  the 
total  white  population19  and  whose  standard  of  living  does  not  differ  much 
from  that  of  the  Bantu  tribes,  are  today  a warning  example  of  this  possibility. 
Their  poverty  is  almost  exclusively  the  consequence  of  their  contempt  for 
work  and  their  adjustment  to  the  way  of  life  of  black  tribes.  Like  the  blacks, 
they  deserted  the  soil  if  the  most  primitive  cultivation  no  longer  yielded 
the  little  that  was  necessary  or  if  they  had  exterminated  the  animals  of  the 
region.20  Together  with  their  former  slaves,  they  came  to  the  gold  and  dia- 
mond centers,  abandoning  their  farms  whenever  the  black  workers  departed. 
But  in  contrast  to  the  natives  who  were  immediately  hired  as  cheap  un- 
skilled labor,  they  demanded  and  were  granted  charity  as  the  right  of  a 
white  skin,  having  lost  all  consciousness  that  normally  men  do  not  earn  a 
living  by  the  color  of  their  skin,21  Their  race  consciousness  today  is  violent 

* The  point  is  that,  for  instance,  in  “the  West  Indies  such  a large  proportion  of 
slaves  as  were  held  ai  the  Cape  would  have  been  a sign  of  wealth  and  a source  of  pros- 
perity**; whereas  “at  the  Cape  slavery  was  the  sign  of  an  unenterprising  economy  . . . 
whose  labour  was  wastefully  and  inefficiently  used”  ( ibid .).  It  was  chiefly  this  that  led 
Barnes  (op.  r//.,  p.  107)  and  many  other  observers  to  the  conclusion:  “South  Africa 
is  thus  a foreign  country,  not  only  in  the  sense  that  its  standpoint  is  definitely  un- 
Briiish,  hut  also  in  the  much  more  radical  sense  that  its  very  raison  d'etre,  as  an  attempt 
at  an  organised  society,  is  in  contradiction  to  the  principles  on  which  the  states  of 
Christendom  are  founded.” 

' T his  corresponded  to  as  many  as  160,000  individuals  (Kiewiet,  op.  cit.,  p.  181). 
James  (op.  lit.,  p.  43)  estimated  the  number  of  poor  whites  in  1943  at  500,000  which 
would  correspond  to  about  20  per  cent  of  the  white  population. 

* I he  poor  white  Afrikaaner  population,  living  on  the  same  subsistence  level  as 
the  Bantus,  is  primarily  the  result  of  the  Boers’  inahility  or  stubborn  refusal  to  learn 
agricultural  science  Like  the  Bantu,  the  Boer  likes  to  wander  from  one  area  to 
another,  tilling  the  soil  until  it  is  no  longer  fertile,  shooting  the  wild  game  until  it 
ceases  to  exist”  (ibid.). 

Their  race  was  their  title  of  superiority  over  the  natives,  and  to  do  manual  labour 
conflicted  with  the  dignity  conferred  upon  them  by  their  race.  . . . Such  an  aversion 
degenerated,  in  those  who  were  most  demoralized,  into  a claim  to  charity  as  a right” 
(Kiewiet,  op.  cit.,  p.  216). 



not  only  because  they  have  nothing  to  lose  save  their  membership  in  the 
white  community,  but  also  because  the  race  concept  seems  to  define  their 
own  condition  much  more  adequately  than  it  does  that  of  their  former 
slaves,  who  are  well  on  the  way  to  becoming  workers,  a normal  part  of 
human  civilization. 

Racism  as  a ruling  device  was  used  in  this  society  of  whites  and  blacks 
before  imperialism  exploited  it  as  a major  political  idea.  Its  basis,  and  its 
excuse,  were  still  experience  itself,  a horrifying  experience  of  something  alien 
beyond  imagination  or  comprehension;  it  was  tempting  indeed  simply  to 
declare  that  these  were  not  human  beings.  Since,  however,  despite  all  ideo- 
logical explanations  the  black  men  stubbornly  insisted  on  retaining  their 
human  features,  the  “white  men”  could  not  but  reconsider  their  own  human- 
ity and  decide  that  they  themselves  were  more  than  human  and  obviously 
chosen  by  God  to  be  the  gods  of  black  men.  This  conclusion  was  logical  and 
unavoidable  if  one  wanted  to  deny  radically  all  common  bonds  with  savages; 
in  practice  it  meant  that  Christianity  for  the  first  time  could  not  act  as  a 
decisive  curb  on  the  dangerous  perversions  of  human  self-consciousness,  a 
premonition  of  its  essential  ineffectiveness  in  other  more  recent  race  so- 
cieties.22 The  Boers  simply  denied  the  Christian  doctrine  of  the  common 
origin  of  men  and  changed  those  passages  of  the  Old  Testament  which  did 
not  yet  transcend  the  limits  of  the  old  Israelite  national  religion  into  a super- 
stition which  could  not  even  be  called  a heresy.23  Like  the  Jews,  they  firmly 
believed  in  themselves  as  the  chosen  people,24  with  the  essential  difference 
that  they  were  chosen  not  for  the  sake  of  divine  salvation  of  mankind,  but  for 
the  lazy  domination  over  another  species  that  was  condemned  to  an  equally 
lazy  drudgery.2*  This  was  God’s  will  on  earth  as  the  Dutch  Reformed  Church 
proclaimed  it  and  still  proclaims  it  today  in  sharp  and  hostile  contrast  to 
the  missionaries  of  all  other  Christian  denominations.26 

22  The  Dutch  Reformed  Church  has  been  in  the  forefront  of  the  Boers’  struggle 
against  the  influence  of  Christian  missionaries  on  the  Cape.  In  1944,  however,  they 
went  one  step  farther  and  adopted  “without  a single  voice  of  dissent”  a motion  oppos- 
ing the  marriage  of  Boers  with  English-speaking  citizens.  (According  to  the  Cape 
Times,  editorial  of  July  18,  1944.  Quoted  from  New  Africa,  Council  on  African  Af- 
fairs. Monthly  Bulletin,  October,  1944.) 

23  Kiewiet  (op.  cit.,  p.  181)  mentions  “the  doctrine  of  racial  superiority  which  was 
drawn  from  the  Bible  and  reinforced  by  the  popular  interpretation  which  the  nine- 
teenth century  placed  upon  Darwin’s  theories.” 

24  “The  God  of  the  Old  Testament  has  been  to  them  almost  as  much  a national 
figure  as  He  has  been  to  the  Jews.  ...  I recall  a memorable  scene  in  a Cape  Town 
club,  where  a bold  Briton,  dining  by  chance  with  three  or  four  Dutchmen,  ventured 
to  observe  that  Christ  was  a non-European  and  that,  legally  speaking,  he  would  have 
been  a prohibited  immigrant  in  the  Union  of  South  Africa.  The  Dutchmen  were  so 
electrified  at  the  remark  that  they  nearly  fell  off  their  chairs”  (Barnes,  op.  cit.,  p.  33). 

25  “For  the  Boer  farmer  the  separation  and  the  degradation  of  the  natives  are  or- 
dained by  God,  and  it  is  crime  and  blasphemy  to  argue  to  the  contrary”  (Norman  Bent- 
wich,  “South  Africa.  Dominion  of  Racial  Problems.”  In  Political  Quarterly,  1939, 
Vol.  X,  No.  3). 

26  “To  this  day  the  missionary  is  to  the  Boer  the  fundamental  traitor,  the  white  man 
who  stands  for  black  against  white”  (S.  Gertrude  Millin,  Rhodes,  London,  1933,  p.  38). 



Boer  racism,  unlike  the  other  brands,  has  a touch  of  authenticity  and,  so 
to  sneak,  of  innocence.  A complete  lack  of  literature  and  other  intellectual 
achievement  is  the  best  witness  to  this  statement.27  It  was  and  remains  a 
desperate  reaction  to  desperate  living  conditions  which  was  inarticulate  and 
inconsequential  as  long  as  it  was  left  alone.  Things  began  to  happen  only 
with  the  arrival  of  the  British,  who  showed  little  interest  in  their  newest 
colony  which  in  1849  was  still  called  a military  station  (as  opposed  to  either 
a colony  or  a plantation).  But  their  mere  presence — that  is,  their  contrasting 
attitude  toward  the  natives  whom  they  did  not  consider  a different  animal 
species,  their  later  attempts  (after  1834)  to  abolish  slavery,  and  above  all 
their  cITorts  to  impose  fixed  boundaries  upon  landed  property— provoked 
the  stagnant  Boer  society  into  violent  reactions.  It  is  characteristic  of  the 
Boers  that  these  reactions  followed  the  same,  repeated  pattern  throughout 
the  nineteenth  century':  Boer  farmers  escaped  British  law  by  treks  into  the 
interior  wilderness  of  the  country,  abandoning  without  regret  their  homes 
and  their  farms.  Rather  than  accept  limitations  upon  their  possessions,  they 
left  them  altogether.28  This  does  not  mean  that  the  Boers  did  not  feel  at 
home  wherever  they  happened  to  be;  they  felt  and  still  feel  much  more  at 
home  in  Africa  than  any  subsequent  immigrants,  but  in  Africa  and  not  in 
any  specific  limited  territory.  Their  fantastic  treks,  which  threw  the  British 
administration  into  consternation,  showed  clearly  that  they  had  transformed 
themselves  into  a tribe  and  had  lost  the  European’s  feeling  for  a territory,  a 
patna  of  his  own.  They  behaved  exactly  like  the  black  tribes  who  had  also 
roamed  the  Dark  Continent  for  centuries — feeling  at  home  wherever  the 
horde  happened  to  be,  and  fleeing  like  death  every  attempt  at  definite  settle- 

Rootlessness  is  characteristic  of  all  race  organizations.  What  the  European 
“movements”  consciously  aimed  at,  the  transformation  of  the  people  into  a 
horde,  can  be  watched  like  a laboratory  test  in  the  Boers’  early  and  sad 
attempt.  While  rootlessness  as  a conscious  aim  was  based  primarily  upon 

27  “Because  they  had  little  art,  less  architecture,  and  no  literature,  they  depended 
upon  their  farms,  their  Bibles,  and  their  blood  to  set  them  off  sharply  against  the 
native  and  the  outlander”  (Kiewiet,  op.  cit.,  p.  121). 

2H  "The  true  Vorlrekker  hated  a boundary.  When  the  British  Government  insisted 
on  fixed  boundaries  for  the  Colony  and  for  farms  within  it,  something  was  taken  from 
him.  ...  It  was  best  surely  to  betake  themselves  across  the  border  where  there  were 
water  and  free  land  and  no  British  Government  to  disallow  Vagrancy  Laws  and  where 
white  men  could  not  be  haled  to  court  to  answer  the  complaints  of  their  servants” 
{Ibid.,  pp.  54-55).  "The  Great  Trek,  a movement  unique  in  the  history  of  colonization” 
(p.  58)  “was  the  defeat  of  the  policy  of  more  intensive  settlement.  The  practice  which 
required  the  area  of  an  entire  Canadian  township  for  the  settlement  of  ten  families  was 
extended  through  all  of  South  Africa.  It  made  for  ever  impossible  the  segregation  of 
white  and  black  races  in  separate  areas  of  settlement.  ...  By  taking  the  Boers  beyond 
the  reach  of  British  law,  the  Great  Trek  enabled  them  to  establish  ‘proper’  relations 
with  the  native  population”  (p.  56).  “In  later  years,  the  Great  Trek  was  to  become 
more  than  a protest;  it  was  to  become  a rebellion  against  the  British  administration, 
and  the  foundation  stone  of  the  Anglo-Boer  racialism  of  the  twentieth  century”  (James, 
op.  cit.,  p.  28). 



hatred  of  a world  that  had  no  place  for  “superfluous”  men,  so  that  its  de- 
struction could  become  a supreme  political  goal,  the  rootlessness  of  the 
Boers  was  a natural  result  of  early  emancipation  from  work  and  complete 
lack  of  a human-built  world.  The  same  striking  similarity  prevails  between 
the  “movements”  and  the  Boers’  interpretation  of  “chosenness.”  But  while 
the  Pan-German,  Pan-Slav,  or  Polish  Messianic  movements’  chosenness  was 
a more  or  less  conscious  instrument  for  domination,  the  Boers’  perversion 
of  Christianity  was  solidly  rooted  in  a horrible  reality  in  which  miserable 
“white  men”  were  worshipped  as  divinities  by  equally  unfortunate  “black 
men.”  Living  in  an  environment  which  they  had  no  power  to  transform  into 
a civilized  world,  they  could  discover  no  higher  value  than  themselves.  The 
point,  however,  is  that  no  matter  whether  racism  appears  as  the  natural 
result  of  a catastrophe  or  as  the  conscious  instrument  for  bringing  it  about, 
it  is  always  closely  tied  to  contempt  for  labor,  hatred  of  territorial  limita- 
tion, general  rootlessness,  and  an  activistic  faith  in  one’s  own  divine  chosen- 

Early  British  rule  in  South  Africa,  with  its  missionaries,  soldiers,  and 
explorers,  did  not  realize  that  the  Boers’  attitudes  had  some  basis  in  reality. 
They  did  not  understand  that  absolute  European  supremacy — in  which  they, 
after  all,  were  as  interested  as  the  Boers — could  hardly  be  maintained  except 
through  racism  because  the  permanent  European  settlement  was  so  hope- 
lessly outnumbered; 29  they  were  shocked  “if  Europeans  settled  in  Africa 
were  to  act  like  savages  themselves  because  it  was  the  custom  of  the  coun- 
try,” 30  and  to  their  simple  utilitarian  minds  it  seemed  folly  to  sacrifice  pro- 
ductivity and  profit  to  the  phantom  world  of  white  gods  ruling  over  black 
shadows.  Only  with  the  settlement  of  Englishmen  and  other  Europeans  dur- 
ing the  gold  rush  did  they  gradually  adjust  to  a population  which  could  not 
be  lured  back  into  European  civilization  even  by  profit  motives,  which  had 
lost  contact  even  with  the  lower  incentives  of  European  man  when  it  had 
cut  itself  off  from  his  higher  motives,  because  both  lose  their  meaning  and 
appeal  in  a society  where  nobody  wants  to  achieve  anything  and  everyone 
has  become  a god. 

ii:  Gold  and  Race 

the  diamond  fields  of  Kimberley  and  the  gold  mines  of  the  Witwatersrand 
happened  to  lie  in  this  phantom  world  of  race,  and  “a  land  that  had  seen 
boat-load  after  boat-load  of  emigrants  for  New  Zealand  and  Australia  pass 
it  unheeding  by  now  saw  men  tumbling  on  to  its  wharves  and  hurrying 

29  In  1939,  the  total  population  of  the  Union  of  South  Africa  amounted  to  9,500,000 
of  whom  7,000,000  were  natives  and  2,500,000  Europeans.  Of  the  latter,  more  than 
1,250,000  were  Boers,  about  one-third  were  British,  and  100,000  were  Jews.  See  Nor- 
man Bentwich,  op.  cit. 

30  J.  A.  Froude,  op.  cit.,  p.  375, 



up  country  to  the  mines.  Most  of  them  were  English,  but  among  them  was 
more  than  a sprinkling  from  Riga  and  Kiev,  Hamburg  and  Frankfort,  Rotter- 
dam and  San  Francisco.”  31  All  of  them  belonged  to  “a  class  of  persons  who 
prefer  adventure  and  speculation  to  settled  industry,  and  who  do  not  work 
well  in  the  harness  of  ordinary  life.  . . . [There  were]  diggers  from  Amer- 
ica and  Australia,  German  speculators,  traders,  saloonkeepers,  professional 
gamblers,  barristers  . . . , ex-officers  of  the  army  and  navy,  younger  sons 
of  good  families  ...  a marvelous  motley  assemblage  among  whom  money 
flowed  like  water  from  the  amazing  productiveness  of  the  mine.”  They  were 
joined  by  thousands  of  natives  who  first  came  to  “steal  diamonds  and  to  lag 
their  earnings  out  in  rifles  and  powder,”  32  but  quickly  started  to  work  for 
wages  and  became  the  seemingly  inexhaustible  cheap  labor  supply  when 
the  “most  stagnant  of  colonial  regions  suddenly  exploded  into  activity.”  33 

The  abundance  of  natives,  of  cheap  labor,  was  the  first  and  perhaps  most 
important  difference  between  this  gold  rush  and  others  of  its  type.  It  was 
soon  apparent  that  the  mob  from  the  four  corners  of  the  earth  would  not 
even  have  to  do  the  digging;  at  any  rate,  the  permanent  attraction  of  South 
Africa,  the  permanent  resource  that  tempted  the  adventurers  to  permanent 
settlement,  was  not  the  gold  but  this  human  raw  material  which  promised  a 
permanent  emancipation  from  work.31  The  Europeans  served  solely  as  super- 
visors and  did  not  even  produce  skilled  labor  and  engineers,  both  of  which 
had  constantly  to  be  imported  from  Europe. 

Second  in  importance  only,  for  the  ultimate  outcome,  was  the  fact  that 
this  gold  rush  was  not  simply  left  to  itself  but  was  financed,  organized,  and 
connected  with  the  ordinary  European  economy  through  the  accumulated 
superfluous  wealth  and  with  the  help  of  Jewish  financiers.  From  the  very 
beginning  “a  hundred  or  so  Jewish  merchants  who  have  gathered  like  eagles 
over  their  prey”  35  actually  acted  as  middlemen  through  whom  European 
capital  was  invested  in  the  gold  mining  and  diamond  industries. 

The  only  section  of  the  South  African  population  that  did  not  have  and 
did  not  want  to  have  a share  in  the  suddenly  exploding  activities  of  the 
country  were  the  Boers.  They  hated  all  these  uitlanders,  who  did  not  care  for 
citizenship  but  who  needed  and  obtained  British  protection,  thereby  seem- 
ingly strengthening  British  government  influence  on  the  Cape.  The  Boers 
reacted  as  they  had  always  reacted,  they  sold  their  diamond-laden  possessions 
in  Kimberley  and  their  farms  with  gold  mines  near  Johannesburg  and 
trekked  once  more  into  the  interior  wilderness.  They  did  not  understand 
that  this  new  influx  was  different  from  the  British  missionaries,  government 
officials,  or  ordinary  settlers,  and  they  realized  only  when  it  was  too  late 

31  Kicwict,  op.  cit.,  p.  119. 

32  Froude,  op.  cit.,  p.  400. 

33  Kicwict,  op.  cit.,  p.  119. 

’'••What  an  abundance  of  rain  and  grass  was  to  New  Zealand  mutton,  what  a plenty 
ot  cheap  grazing  land  was  to  Australian  wool,  what  the  fertile  prairie  acres  were  to 

,cheaP  native  labour  was  to  South  African  mining  and  industrial 
enterprise  (Kjewiet,  op.  cit.,  p.  96). 

38  J.  A.  Froude,  ibid. 



and  they  had  already  lost  their  share  in  the  riches  of  the  gold  hunt  that  the 
new  idol  of  Gold  was  not  at  all  irreconcilable  with  their  idol  of  Blood,  that 
the  new  mob  was  as  unwilling  to  work  and  as  unfit  to  establish  a civilization 
as  they  were  themselves,  and  would  therefore  spare  them  the  British  officials’ 
annoying  insistence  on  law  and  the  Christian  missionaries’  irritating  con- 
cept of  human  equality. 

The  Boers  feared  and  fled  what  actually  never  happened,  namely,  the  in- 
dustrialization of  the  country.  They  were  right  insofar  as  normal  production 
and  civilization  would  indeed  have  destroyed  automatically  the  way  of  life 
of  a race  society.  A normal  market  for  labor  and  merchandise  would  have 
liquidated  the  privileges  of  race.  But  gold  and  diamonds,  which  soon  pro- 
vided a living  for  half  of  South  Africa’s  population,  were  not  merchandise 
in  the  same  sense  and  were  not  produced  in  the  same  way  as  wool  in  Aus- 
tralia, meat  in  New  Zealand,  or  wheat  in  Canada.  The  irrational,  non-func- 
tional place  of  gold  in  the  economy  made  it  independent  of  rational  produc- 
tion methods  which,  of  course,  could  never  have  tolerated  the  fantastic  dis- 
parities between  black  and  white  wages.  Gold,  an  object  for  speculation  and 
essentially  dependent  in  value  upon  political  factors,  became  the  “lifeblood” 
of  South  Africa  36  but  it  could  not  and  did  not  become  the  basis  of  a new 
economic  order. 

The  Boers  also  feared  the  mere  presence  of  the  uitlanders  because  they 
mistook  them  for  British  settlers.  The  uitlanders , however,  came  solely  in 
order  to  get  rich  quickly,  and  only  those  remained  who  did  not  quite  succeed 
or  who,  like  the  Jews,  had  no  country  to  return  to.  Neither  group  cared  very 
much  to  establish  a community  after  the  model  of  European  countries,  as 
British  settlers  had  done  in  Australia,  Canada,  and  New  Zealand.  It  was 
Barnato  who  happily  discovered  that  “the  Transvaal  Government  is  like 
no  other  government  in  the  world.  It  is  indeed  not  a government  at  all,  but 
an  unlimited  company  of  some  twenty  thousand  shareholders.”  37  Similarly, 
it  was  more  or  less  a series  of  misunderstandings  which  finally  led  to  the 
British-Boer  war,  which  the  Boers  wrongly  believed  to  be  “the  culmination 
of  the  British  Government’s  lengthy  quest  for  a united  South  Africa,”  while 
it  was  actually  prompted  mainly  by  investment  interests.38  When  the  Boers 
lost  the  war,  they  lost  no  more  than  they  had  already  deliberately  abandoned, 
that  is,  their  share  in  the  riches;  but  they  definitely  won  the  consent  of  all 
other  European  elements,  including  the  British  government,  to  the  lawless- 

36  “The  goldmines  are  the  life-blood  of  the  Union  . . . one  half  of  the  population 
obtained  their  livelihood  directly  or  indirectly  from  the  goldmining  industry,  and  . . . 
one  half  of  the  finances  of  the  government  were  derived  directly  or  indirectly  from 
gold  mining”  (Kiewiet,  op.  cit.,  p.  155). 

37  See  Paul  H.  Emden,  Jews  of  Britain,  A Series  of  Biographies,  London,  1944, 
chapter  “From  Cairo  to  the  Cape.” 

38  Kiewiet  {op.  cit.,  pp.  138-39)  mentions,  however,  also  another  “set  of  circum- 
stances”: “Any  attempt  by  the  British  Government  to  secure  concessions  or  reforms 
from  the  Transvaal  Government  made  it  inevitably  the  agent  of  the  mining  mag- 
nates. . . . Great  Britain  gave  its  support,  whether  this  was  clearly  realized  in  Downing 
Street  or  not,  to  capital  and  mining  investments.” 



ness  of  a race  society.39  Today,  all  sections  of  the  population,  British  or 
Afrikander,  organized  workers  or  capitalists,  agree  on  the  race  question,40 
and  whereas  the  rise  of  Nazi  Germany  and  its  conscious  attempt  to  trans- 
form the  German  people  into  a race  strengthened  the  political  position  of 
the  Boers  considerably,  Germany’s  defeat  has  not  weakened  it. 

The  Boers  hated  and  feared  the  financiers  more  than  the  other  foreigners. 
They  somehow  understood  that  the  financier  was  a key  figure  in  the  com- 
bination of  superfluous  wealth  and  superfluous  men,  that  it  was  his  function 
to  turn  the  essentially  transitory  gold  hunt  into  a much  broader  and  more 
permanent  business.41  The  war  with  the  British,  moreover,  soon  demon- 
strated an  even  more  decisive  aspect;  it  was  quite  obvious  that  it  had  been 
prompted  by  foreign  investors  who  demanded  the  government’s  protection 
of  their  tremendous  profits  in  faraway  countries  as  a matter  of  course — as 
though  armies  engaged  in  a war  against  foreign  peoples  were  nothing  but 
native  police  forces  involved  in  a fight  with  native  criminals.  It  made  little 
difference  to  the  Boers  that  the  men  who  introduced  this  kind  of  violence 
into  the  shadowy  affairs  of  the  gold  and  diamond  production  were  no  longer 
the  financiers,  but  those  who  somehow  had  risen  from  the  mob  itself  and, 
like  Cecil  Rhodes,  believed  less  in  profits  than  in  expansion  for  expansion’s 
sake.42  The  financiers,  who  were  mostly  Jews  and  only  the  representatives, 
not  the  owners,  of  the  superfluous  capital,  had  neither  the  necessary  political 
influence  nor  enough  economic  power  to  introduce  political  purposes  and  the 
use  of  violence  into  speculation  and  gambling. 

Without  doubt  the  financiers,  though  finally  not  the  decisive  factor  in 

3®“Much  of  the  hesitant  and  evasive  conduct  of  British  statesmanship  in  the  gen- 
eration before  the  Boer  War  could  be  attributed  to  the  indecision  of  the  British  Gov- 
ernment between  its  obligation  to  the  natives  and  its  obligation  to  the  white  com- 
munities. . . . Now,  however,  the  Boer  War  compelled  a decision  on  native  policy. 
In  the  terms  of  the  peace  the  British  Government  promised  that  no  attempt  would  be 
made  to  alter  the  political  status  of  the  natives  before  self-government  had  been 
granlcd  to  the  ex-Rcpublics.  In  that  epochal  decision  the  British  Government  receded 
from  its  humanitarian  position  and  enabled  the  Boer  leaders  to  win  a signal  victory  in 
the  peace  negotiations  which  marked  their  military  defeat.  Great  Britain  abandoned 
the  effort  to  exercise  a control  over  the  vital  relations  between  white  and  black. 
Downing  Street  had  surrendered  to  the  frontiers”  (Kicwiet,  op.  cit.,  pp.  143-44). 

40  "There  is  ...  an  entirely  erroneous  notion  that  the  Africaaners  and  the  English- 
speaking  people  of  South  Africa  still  disagree  on  how  to  treat  the  natives.  On  the 
contrary,  it  is  one  of  the  few  things  on  which  they  do  agree”  (James,  op.  cit.,  p.  47). 

41  This  was  mostly  due  to  the  methods  of  Alfred  Beit  who  had  arrived  in  1875  to 
buy  diamonds  for  a Hamburg  firm.  “Till  then  only  speculators  had  been  shareholders 
in  mining  ventures.  . . . Beit’s  method  attracted  the  genuine  investor  also”  (Emden, 
op.  cit.). 

4-Very  characteristic  in  this  respect  was  Barnato’s  attitude  when  it  came  to  the 
amalgamation  of  his  business  with  the  Rhodes  group.  “For  Barnato  the  amalgamation 
was  nothing  but  a financial  transaction  in  which  he  wanted  to  make  money.  . . . He 
therefore  desired  that  the  company  should  have  nothing  to  do  with  politics.  Rhodes 
ovvcvcr  was  not  merely  a business  man.  . . .”  This  shows  how  very  wrong  Barnato 
was  when  he  thought  that  “if  I had  received  the  education  of  Cecil  Rhodes  there  would 
not  have  been  a Cecil  Rhodes”  {ibid.). 



imperialism,  were  remarkably  representative  of  it  in  its  initial  period.43  They 
had  taken  advantage  of  the  overproduction  of  capital  and  its  accompanying 
complete  reversal  of  economic  and  moral  values.  Instead  of  mere  trade  in 
goods  and  mere  profit  from  production,  trade  in  capital  itself  emerged  on 
an  unprecedented  scale.  This  alone  would  have  given  them  a prominent 
position;  in  addition  profits  from  investments  in  foreign  countries  soon  in- 
creased at  a much  more  rapid  rate  than  trade  profits,  so  that  traders  and 
merchants  lost  their  primacy  to  the  financier.44  The  main  economic  char- 
acteristic of  the  financier  is  that  he  earns  his  profits  not  from  production  and 
exploitation  or  exchange  of  merchandise  or  normal  banking,  but  solely 
through  commissions.  This  is  important  in  our  context  because  it  gives  him 
that  touch  of  unreality,  of  phantom-like  existence  and  essential  futility 
even  in  a normal  economy,  that  are  typical  of  so  many  South  African 
events.  The  financiers  certainly  did  not  exploit  anybody  and  they  had 
least  control  over  the  course  of  their  business  ventures,  whether  these 
turned  out  to  be  common  swindles  or  sound  enterprises  belatedly  confirmed. 

It  is  also  significant  that  it  was  precisely  the  mob  element  among  the 
Jewish  people  who  turned  into  financiers.  It  is  true  that  the  discovery  of  gold 
mines  in  South  Africa  had  coincided  with  the  first  modern  pogroms  in 
Russia,  so  that  a trickle  of  Jewish  emigrants  went  to  South  Africa.  There, 
however,  they  would  hardly  have  played  a role  in  the  international  crowd 
of  desperadoes  and  fortune  hunters  if  a few  Jewish  financiers  had  not  been 
there  ahead  of  them  and  taken  an  immediate  interest  in  the  newcomers  who 
clearly  could  represent  them  in  the  population. 

The  Jewish  financiers  came  from  practically  every  country  on  the  con- 
tinent where  they  had  been,  in  terms  of  class,  as  superfluous  as  the  other 
South  African  immigrants.  They  were  quite  different  from  the  few  estab- 
lished families  of  Jewish  notables  whose  influence  had  steadily  decreased 
after  1820,  and  into  whose  ranks  they  could  therefore  no  longer  be  assimi- 
lated. They  belonged  in  that  new  caste  of  Jewish  financiers  which,  from  the 
seventies  and  eighties  on,  we  find  in  all  European  capitals,  where  they  had 
come,  mostly  after  having  left  their  countries  of  origin,  in  order  to  try  their 
luck  in  the  international  stock-market  gamble.  This  they  did  everywhere  to 
the  great  dismay  of  the  older  Jewish  families,  who  were  too  weak  to  stop 
the  unscrupulousness  of  the  newcomers  and  therefore  only  too  glad  if  the 
latter  decided  to  transfer  the  field  of  their  activities  overseas.  In  other  words, 
the  Jewish  financiers  had  become  as  superfluous  in  legitimate  Jewish  bank- 
ing as  the  wealth  they  represented  had  become  superfluous  in  legitimate 

43  Compare  chapter  v,  note  34. 

44  The  increase  in  profits  from  foreign  investment  and  a relative  decrease  of  foreign 
trade  profits  characterizes  the  economic  side  of  imperialism.  In  1899,  it  was  estimated 
that  Great  Britain’s  whole  foreign  and  colonial  trade  had  brought  her  an  income  of 
only  18  million  pounds,  while  in  the  same  year  profits  from  foreign  investment 
amounted  to  90  or  100  million  pounds.  See  J.  A.  Hobson,  Imperialism,  London,  1938, 
pp.  53  ff.  It  is  obvious  that  investment  demanded  a much  more  conscious  long-range 
policy  of  exploitation  than  mere  trade. 



industrial  enterprise  and  the  fortune  hunters  in  the  world  of  legitimate  labor. 
In  South  Africa  itself,  where  the  merchant  was  about  to  lose  his  status  within 
the  country's  economy  to  the  financier,  the  new  arrivals,  the  Barnatos, 
Beits,  Sammy  Marks,  removed  the  older  Jewish  settlers  from  first  position 
much  more  easily  than  in  Europe.45  In  South  Africa,  though  hardly  any- 
where else,  they  were  the  third  factor  in  the  initial  alliance  between  capi- 
tal and  mob;  to  a large  extent,  they  set  the  alliance  into  motion,  handled 
the  influx  of  capital  and  its  investment  in  the  gold  mines  and  diamond 
fields,  and  soon  became  more  conspicuous  than  anybody  else. 

The  fact  of  their  Jewish  origin  added  an  undefinable  symbolic  flavor  to 
the  role  of  the  financiers — a flavor  of  essential  homelessness  and  rootlessness 
— and  thus  served  to  introduce  an  element  of  mystery,  as  well  as  to  symbol- 
ize the  whole  affair.  To  this  must  be  added  their  actual  international  connec- 
tions, which  naturally  stimulated  the  general  popular  delusions  concerning 
Jewish  political  power  all  over  the  world.  It  is  quite  comprehensible  that 
all  the  fantastic  notions  of  a secret  international  Jewish  power — notions 
which  originally  had  been  the  result  of  the  closeness  of  Jewish  banking 
capital  to  the  state’s  sphere  of  business — became  even  more  virulent  here 
than  on  the  European  continent.  Here,  for  the  first  time  Jews  were  driven 
into  the  midst  of  a race  society  and  almost  automatically  singled  out  by  the 
Boers  from  all  other  “white”  people  for  special  hatred,  not  only  as  the 
representatives  of  the  whole  enterprise,  but  as  a different  “race,”  the  embodi- 
ment of  a devilish  principle  introduced  into  the  normal  world  of  “blacks” 
and  “whites.”  This  hatred  was  all  the  more  violent  as  it  was  partly  caused 
by  the  suspicion  that  the  Jews  with  their  own  older  and  more  authentic 
claim  would  be  harder  than  anyone  else  to  convince  of  the  Boers’  claim 
to  chosenness.  While  Christianity  simply  denied  the  principle  as  such, 
Judaism  seemed  a direct  challenge  and  rival.  Long  before  the  Nazis  con- 
sciously built  up  an  antisemitic  movement  in  South  Africa,  the  race  issue 
had  invaded  the  conflict  between  the  uitlander  and  the  Boers  in  the  form  of 
antisemitism,40  which  is  all  the  more  noteworthy  since  the  importance  of 
Jews  in  the  South  African  gold  and  diamond  economy  did  not  survive  the 
turn  of  the  century. 

As  soon  as  the  gold  and  diamond  industries  reached  the  stage  of  imperialist 
development  where  absentee  shareholders  demand  their  governments’  polit- 
ical protection,  it  turned  out  that  the  Jews  could  not  hold  their  important 
economic  position.  They  had  no  home  government  to  turn  to  and  their  posi- 
tion in  South  African  society  was  so  insecure  that  much  more  was  at  stake 
for  them  than  a mere  decrease  in  influence.  They  could  preserve  economic 

45  Early  Jewish  settlers  in  South  Africa  in  the  eighteenth  and  the  first  part  of  the 
nineteenth  century  were  adventurers;  traders  and  merchants  followed  them  after  the 
middle  of  the  century,  among  whom  the  most  prominent  turned  to  industries  such  as 
fishing,  sealing,  and  whaling  (De  Pass  Brothers)  and  ostrich  breeding  (the  Mosenthal 
family).  Later,  they  were  almost  forced  into  the  Kimberley  diamond  industries  where, 
however,  they  never  achieved  such  pre-eminence  as  Barnato  and  Beit. 

Ernst  Schultze,  “Die  Judenfrage  in  Sued-Afrika,”  in  Der  Weltkampf,  October, 
1938,  Vol.  XV,  No.  178. 



security  and  permanent  settlement  in  South  Africa,  which  they  needed  more 
than  any  other  group  of  uitlanders,  only  if  they  achieved  some  status  in 
society — which  in  this  case  meant  admission  to  exclusive  British  clubs. 
They  were  forced  to  trade  their  influence  against  the  position  of  a gentle- 
man, as  Cecil  Rhodes  very  bluntly  put  it  when  he  bought  his  way  into  the 
Barnato  Diamond  Trust,  after  having  amalgamated  his  De  Beers  Company 
with  Alfred  Beit’s  Company.47  But  these  Jews  had  more  to  offer  than  just 
economic  power;  it  was  thanks  to  them  that  Cecil  Rhodes,  as  much  a new- 
comer and  adventurer  as  they,  was  finally  accepted  by  England’s  respectable 
banking  business  with  which  the  Jewish  financiers  after  all  had  better  con- 
nections than  anybody  else.48  “Not  one  of  the  English  banks  would  have 
lent  a single  shilling  on  the  security  of  gold  shares.  It  was  the  unbounded 
confidence  of  these  diamond  men  from  Kimberley  that  operated  like  a mag- 
net upon  their  co-religionists  at  home.”  49 

The  gold  rush  became  a full-fledged  imperialist  enterprise  only  after  Cecil 
Rhodes  had  dispossessed  the  Jews,  taken  investment  policies  from  Eng- 
land’s into  his  own  hands,  and  had  become  the  central  figure  on  the  Cape. 
Seventy-five  per  cent  of  the  dividends  paid  to  shareholders  went  abroad, 
and  a large  majority  of  them  to  Great  Britain.  Rhodes  succeeded  in  inter- 
esting the  British  government  in  his  business  affairs,  persuaded  them  that 
expansion  and  export  of  the  instruments  of  violence  was  necessary  to  protect 
investments,  and  that  such  a policy  was  a holy  duty  of  every  national  govern- 
ment. On  the  other  hand,  he  introduced  on  the  Cape  itself  that  typically 
imperialist  economic  policy  of  neglecting  all  industrial  enterprises  which  were 
not  owned  by  absentee  shareholders,  so  that  finally  not  only  the  gold  mining 
companies  but  the  government  itself  discouraged  the  exploitation  of  abundant 
base  metal  deposits  and  the  production  of  consumers’  goods.50  With  the 
initiation  of  this  policy,  Rhodes  introduced  the  most  potent  factor  in  the 
eventual  appeasement  of  the  Boers;  the  neglect  of  all  authentic  industrial 
enterprise  was  the  most  solid  guarantee  for  the  avoidance  of  normal  capitalist 
development  and  thus  against  a normal  end  of  race  society. 

It  took  the  Boers  several  decades  to  understand  that  imperialism  was 

47  Barnato  sold  his  shares  to  Rhodes  in  order  to  be  introduced  to  the  Kimberley 
Club.  “This  is  no  mere  money  transaction,”  Rhodes  is  reported  to  have  told  Barnato, 
“I  propose  to  make  a gentleman  of  you.”  Barnato  enjoyed  his  life  as  a gentleman  for 
eight  years  and  then  committed  suicide.  See  Millin,  op.  cit.,  pp.  14,  85. 

48  “The  path  from  one  Jew  [in  this  case,  Alfred  Beit  from  Hamburg]  to  another  is 
an  easy  one.  Rhodes  went  to  England  to  see  Lord  Rothschild  and  Lord  Rothschild  ap- 
proved of  him”  {ibid.). 

49  Emden,  op.  cit. 

50  “South  Africa  concentrated  almost  all  its  peacetime  industrial  energy  on  the  pro- 
duction of  gold.  The  average  investor  put  his  money  into  gold  because  it  offered  the 
quickest  and  biggest  returns.  But  South  Africa  also  has  tremendous  deposits  of  iron 
ore,  copper,  asbestos,  manganese,  tin,  lead,  platinum,  chrome,  mica  and  graphite. 
These,  along  with  the  coal  mines  and  the  handful  of  factories  producing  consumer 
goods,  were  known  as  ‘secondary’  industries.  The  investing  public’s  interest  in  them  was 
limited.  And  development  of  these  secondary  industries  was  discouraged  by  the  gold- 
mining companies  and  to  a large  extent  by  the  government”  (James,  op.  cit.,  p.  333). 



nothing  to  be  afraid  of,  since  it  would  neither  develop  the  country  as  Aus- 
tralia and  Canada  had  been  developed,  nor  draw  profits  from  the  country 
at  large,  being  quite  content  with  a high  turnover  of  investments  in  one 
specific  field.  Imperialism  therefore  was  willing  to  abandon  the  so-called 
laws  of  capitalist  production  and  their  egalitarian  tendencies,  so  long  as 
profits  from  specific  investments  were  safe.  This  led  eventually  to  the  aboli- 
tion of  the  law  of  mere  profitableness  and  South  Africa  became  the  first 
example  of  a phenomenon  that  occurs  whenever  the  mob  becomes  the 
dominant  factor  in  the  alliance  between  mob  and  capital. 

In  one  respect,  the  most  important  one,  the  Boers  remained  the  undisputed 
masters  of  the  country:  whenever  rational  labor  and  production  policies 
came  into  conflict  with  race  considerations,  the  latter  won.  Profit  motives 
were  sacrificed  time  and  again  to  the  demands  of  a race  society,  frequently 
at  a terrific  price.  The  rentability  of  the  railroads  was  destroyed  overnight 
when  the  government  dismissed  17,000  Bantu  employees  and  paid  whites 
wages  that  amounted  to  200  per  cent  more; 61  expenses  for  municipal  gov- 
ernment became  prohibitive  when  native  municipal  employees  were  replaced 
with  whites;  the  Color  Bar  Bill  finally  excluded  all  black  workers  from 
mechanical  jobs  and  forced  industrial  enterprise  to  a tremendous  increase 
of  production  costs.  The  race  world  of  the  Boers  had  nobody  to  fear  any 
more,  least  of  all  white  labor,  whose  trade  unions  complained  bitterly  that 
the  Color  Bar  Bill  did  not  go  far  enough.62 

At  first  glance,  it  is  surprising  that  a violent  antisemitism  survived  the 
disappearance  of  the  Jewish  financiers  as  well  as  the  successful  indoctrination 
with  racism  of  all  parts  of  the  European  population.  The  Jews  were  certainly 
no  exception  to  this  rule;  they  adjusted  to  racism  as  well  as  everybody  else 
and  their  behavior  toward  black  people  was  beyond  reproach.53  Yet  they 
had,  without  being  aware  of  it  and  under  pressure  of  special  circumstances, 
broken  with  one  of  the  most  powerful  traditions  of  the  country. 

The  first  sign  of  “anormal”  behavior  came  immediately  after  the  Jewish 
financiers  had  lost  their  position  in  the  gold  and  diamond  industries.  They 
did  not  leave  the  country  but  settled  down  permanently  84  into  a unique  posi- 

51  James,  op.  cit.,  pp,  1 11-112.  “The  Government  reckoned  that  this  was  a good  ex- 
ample for  private  employers  to  follow  . . . and  public  opinion  soon  forced  changes 
in  the  hiring  policies  of  many  employers.” 

52  James,  op.  cit.,  p.  108. 

63  Here  again,  a definite  difference  between  the  earlier  settlers  and  the  financiers 
can  be  recognized  until  the  end  of  the  nineteenth  century.  Saul  Salomon,  for  instance, 
a Negrophilisl  member  of  the  Cape  Parliament,  was  a descendant  of  a family  which 
had  settled  in  South  Africa  in  the  early  nineteenth  century.  Emden,  op.  cit . 

Between  1924  and  1930,  12,319  Jews  immigrated  to  South  Africa  while  only 
461  left  the  country.  These  figures  are  very  striking  if  one  considers  that  the  total 
immigration  for  the  same  period  after  deduction  of  emigrants  amounted  to  14,241 
persons.  (See  Schultze,  op.  cit.)  If  we  compare  these  figures  with  the  immigration 
table  of  note  6,  it  follows  that  Jews  constituted  roughly  one-third  of  the  total  immi- 
gration to  South  Africa  in  the  twenties,  and  that  they,  in  sharp  contrast  to  all  other 



tion  for  a white  group:  they  neither  belonged  to  the  “lifeblood”  of  Africa 
nor  to  the  “poor  white  trash.”  Instead  they  started  almost  immediately  to 
build  up  those  industries  and  professions  which  according  to  South  African 
opinion  are  “secondary”  because  they  are  not  connected  with  gold.65  Jews 
became  manufacturers  of  furniture  and  clothes,  shopkeepers  and  members 
of  the  professions,  physicians,  lawyers,  and  journalists.  In  other  words,  no 
matter  how  well  they  thought  they  were  adjusted  to  the  mob  conditions  of 
the  country  and  its  race  attitude,  Jews  had  broken  its  most  important  pattern 
by  introducing  into  South  African  economy  a factor  of  normalcy  and  pro- 
ductivity, with  the  result  that  when  Mr.  Malan  introduced  into  Parliament  a 
bill  to  expel  all  Jews  from  the  Union  he  had  the  enthusiastic  support  of  all 
poor  whites  and  of  the  whole  Afrikander  population.80 

This  change  in  the  economic  function,  the  transformation  of  South  African 
Jewry  from  representing  the  most  shadowy  characters  in  the  shadow  world 
of  gold  and  race  into  the  only  productive  part  of  the  population,  came  like 
an  oddly  belated  confirmation  of  the  original  fears  of  the  Boers.  They  had 
hated  the  Jews  not  so  much  as  the  middlemen  of  superfluous  wealth  or  the 
representatives  of  the  world  of  gold;  they  had  feared  and  despised  them  as 
the  very  image  of  the  uitlanders  who  would  try  to  change  the  country  into 
a normal  producing  part  of  Western  civilization,  whose  profit  motives,  at 
least,  would  mortally  endanger  the  phantom  world  of  race.  And  when  the 
Jews  were  finally  cut  off  from  the  golden  lifeblood  of  the  uitlanders  and 
could  not  leave  the  country  as  all  other  foreigners  would  have  done  in 
similar  circumstances,  developing  “secondary”  industries  instead,  the  Boers 
turned  out  to  be  right.  The  Jews,  entirely  by  themselves  and  without  being 
the  image  of  anything  or  anybody,  had  become  a real  menace  to  race  society. 
As  matters  stand  today,  the  Jews  have  against  them  the  concerted  hostility 
of  all  those  who  believe  in  race  or  gold — and  that  is  practically  the  whole 
European  population  in  South  Africa.  Yet  they  cannot  and  will  not  make 
common  cause  with  the  only  other  group  which  slowly  and  gradually  is 
being  won  away  from  race  society:  the  black  workers  who  are  becoming 
more  and  more  aware  of  their  humanity  under  the  impact  of  regular  labor 
and  urban  life.  Although  they,  in  contrast  to  the  “whites,”  do  have  a genuine 
race  origin,  they  have  made  no  fetish  of  race,  and  the  abolition  of  race  society 
means  only  the  promise  of  their  liberation. 

In  contrast  to  the  Nazis,  to  whom  racism  and  antisemitism  were  major 
political  weapons  for  the  destruction  of  civilization  and  the  setting  up  of  a 
new  body  politic,  racism  and  antisemitism  are  a matter  of  course  and  a 

categories  of  uitlanders , setlled  there  permanently;  their  share  in  the  annual  emigration 
is  less  than  2 per  cent. 

55  “Rabid  Afrikaaner  nationalist  leaders  have  deplored  the  fact  that  there  are 
102,000  Jews  in  the  Union;  most  of  them  are  while-collar  workers,  industrial  em- 
ployers, shopkeepers,  or  members  of  the  professions.  The  Jews  did  much-  to  build  up 
the  secondary  industries  of  South  Africa — i.e.,  industries  other  than  gold  and  diamond 
mining — concentrating  particularly  on  the  manufacture  of  clothes  and  furniture” 
(James,  op.  cit.,  p.  46). 

Ibid.,  pp.  67-68. 



natural  consequence  of  the  status  quo  in  South  Africa.  They  did  not  need 
Nazism  in  order  to  be  born  and  they  influenced  Nazism  only  in  an  indirect 

Hiere  were,  however,  real  and  immediate  boomerang  effects  of  South 
Africa’s  race  society  on  the  behavior  of  European  peoples:  since  cheap 
Indian  and  Chinese  labor  had  been  madly  imported  to  South  Africa  when- 
ever her  interior  supply  was  temporarily  halted,67  a change  of  attitude  to- 
ward colored  people  was  felt  immediately  in  Asia  where,  for  the  first  time, 
people  were  treated  in  almost  the  same  way  as  those  African  savages  who 
had  frightened  Europeans  literally  out  of  their  wits.  The  difference  was  only 
that  there  could  be  no  excuse  and  no  humanly  comprehensible  reason  for 
treating  Indians  and  Chinese  as  though  they  were  not  human  beings.  In  a 
certain  sense,  it  is  only  here  that  the  real  crime  began,  because  here  every- 
one ought  to  have  known  what  he  was  doing.  It  is  true  that  the  race  notion 
was  somewhat  modified  in  Asia;  “higher  and  lower  breeds,”  as  the  “white 
man”  would  say  when  he  started  to  shoulder  his  burden,  still  indicate  a scale 
and  the  possibility  of  gradual  development,  and  the  idea  somehow  escapes 
the  concept  of  two  entirely  different  species  of  animal  life.  On  the  other  hand, 
since  the  race  principle  supplanted  the  older  notion  of  alien  and  strange  peo- 
ples in  Asia,  it  was  a much  more  consciously  applied  weapon  for  domination 
and  exploitation  than  in  Africa. 

Less  immediately  significant  but  of  greater  importance  for  totalitarian 
governments  was  the  other  experience  in  Africa’s  race  society,  that  profit 
motives  are  not  holy  and  can  be  overruled,  that  societies  can  function  ac- 
cording to  principles  other  than  economic,  and  that  such  circumstances  may 
favor  those  who  under  conditions  of  rationalized  production  and  the  capital- 
ist system  would  belong  to  the  underprivileged.  South  Africa’s  race  society 
taught  the  mob  the  great  lesson  of  which  it  had  always  had  a confused 
premonition,  that  through  sheer  violence  an  underprivileged  group  could 
create  a class  lower  than  itself,  that  for  this  purpose  it  did  not  even  need  a 
revolution  but  could  band  together  with  groups  of  the  ruling  classes,  and 
that  foreign  or  backward  peoples  offered  the  best  opportunities  for  such 

The  full  impact  of  the  African  experience  was  first  realized  by  leaders 
of  the  mob,  like  Carl  Peters,  who  decided  that  they  too  had  to  belong  to  a 
master  race.  African  colonial  possessions  became  the  most  fertile  soil  for 
the  flowering  of  what  later  was  to  become  the  Nazi  elite.  Here  they  had 
seen  with  their  own  eyes  how  peoples  could  be  converted  into  races  and  how, 
simply  by  taking  the  initiative  in  this  process,  one  might  push  one’s  own 
people  into  the  position  of  the  master  race.  Here  they  were  cured  of  the 

57  More  than  100,000  Indian  coolies  were  imported  to  the  sugar  plantations  of  Natal 
in  the  nineteenth  century.  These  were  followed  by  Chinese  laborers  in  the  mines  who 
numbered  about  55,000  in  1907.  In  1910,  the  British  government  ordered  the  repatria- 
tion of  all  Chinese  mine  laborers,  and  in  1913  it  prohibited  any  further  immigration 
from  India  or  any  other  part  of  Asia.  In  1931,  142,000  Asiatics  were  still  in  the  Union 
and  treated  like  African  natives.  (See  also  Schultze,  op.  cit.) 



illusion  that  the  historical  process  is  necessarily  “progressive,”  for  if  it  was 
the  course  of  older  colonization  to  trek  to  something,  the  “Dutchman  trekked 
away  from  everything,”  68  and  if  “economic  history  once  taught  that  man 
had  developed  by  gradual  steps  from  a life  of  hunting  to  pastoral  pursuits 
and  finally  to  a settled  and  agricultural  life,”  the  story  of  the  Boers  clearly 
demonstrated  that  one  could  also  come  “from  a land  that  had  taken  the  lead 
in  a thrifty  and  intensive  cultivation  . . . [and]  gradually  become  a herds- 
man and  a hunter.”  59  These  leaders  understood  very  well  that  precisely 
because  the  Boers  had  sunk  back  to  the  level  of  savage  tribes  they  remained 
their  undisputed  masters.  They  were  perfectly  willing  to  pay  the  price,  to 
recede  to  the  level  of  a race  organization,  if  by  so  doing  they  could  buy 
lordship  over  other  “races.”  And  they  knew  from  their  experiences  with 
people  gathered  from  the  four  corners  of  the  earth  in  South  Africa  that  the 
whole  mob  of  the  Western  civilized  world  would  be  with  them.60 

hi:  The  Imperialist  Character 

of  the  two  main  political  devices  of  imperialist  rule,  race  was  discovered 
in  South  Africa  and  bureaucracy  in  Algeria,  Egypt,  and  India;  the  former 
was  originally  the  barely  conscious  reaction  to  tribes  of  whose  humanity 
European  man  was  ashamed  and  frightened,  whereas  the  latter  was  a con- 
sequence of  that  administration  by  which  Europeans  had  tried  to  rule  foreign 
peoples  whom  they  felt  to  be  hopelessly  their  inferiors  and  at  the  same  time 
in  need  of  their  special  protection.  Race,  in  other  words,  was  an  escape  into 
an  irresponsibility  where  nothing  human  could  any  longer  exist,  and  bureauc- 
racy was  the  result  of  a responsibility  that  no  man  can  bear  for  his  fellow- 
man  and  no  people  for  another  people. 

The  exaggerated  sense  of  responsibility  in  the  British  administrators  of 
India  who  succeeded  Burke’s  “breakers  of  law”  had  its  material  basis  in  the 
fact  that  the  British  Empire  had  actually  been  acquired  in  a “fit  of  absent- 
mindedness.”  Those,  therefore,  who  were  confronted  with  the  accomplished 
fact  and  the  job  of  keeping  what  had  become  theirs  through  an  accident,  had 
to  find  an  interpretation  that  could  change  the  accident  into  a kind  of  willed 
act.  Such  historical  changes  of  fact  have  been  carried  through  by  legends 

68  Barnes,  op.  cit.,  p.  13. 

69  Kiewiet,  op.  cit.,  p.  13. 

00  “When  economists  declared  that  higher  wages  were  a form  of  bounty,  and  that 
protected  labour  was  uneconomical,  the  answer  was  given  that  the  sacrifice  was  well 
made  if  the  unfortunate  elements  in  the  white  population  ultimately  found  an  assured 
footing  in  modern  life.”  “But  it  has  not  been  in  South  Africa  alone  that  the  voice  of 
the  conventional  economist  has  gone  unheeded  since  the  end  of  the  Great  War.  . . . 
In  a generation  which  saw  England  abandon  free  trade,  America  leave  the  gold  standard, 
the  Third  Reich  embrace  autarchy,  . . . South  Africa’s  insistence  that  its  economic 
life  must  be  organized  to  secure  the  dominant  position  of  the  white  race  is  not  seriously 
out  of  place”  (Kiewiet,  op.  cit.,  pp.  224  and  245). 



since  ancient  times,  and  legends  dreamed  up  by  the  British  intelligentsia 
ha\e  played  a decisive  role  in  the  formation  of  the  bureaucrat  and  the  secret 
agent  of  the  British  services. 

Legends  have  always  played  a powerful  role  in  the  making  of  history. 
Man,  who  has  not  been  granted  the  gift  of  undoing,  who  is  always  an  un- 
consulted heir  of  other  men's  deeds,  and  who  is  always  burdened  with  a 
responsibility  that  appears  to  be  the  consequence  of  an  unending  chain  of 
events  rather  than  conscious  acts,  demands  an  explanation  and  interpreta- 
tion of  the  past  in  which  the  mysterious  key  to  his  future  destiny  seems  to 
be  concealed.  Legends  were  the  spiritual  foundations  of  every  ancient  city, 
empire,  people,  promising  safe  guidance  through  the  limitless  spaces  of  the 
future.  Without  ever  relating  facts  reliably,  yet  always  expressing  their  true 
significance,  they  offered  a truth  beyond  realities,  a remembrance  beyond 

Legendary  explanations  of  history  always  served  as  belated  corrections 
of  facts  and  real  events,  which  were  needed  precisely  because  history  itself 
would  hold  man  responsible  for  deeds  he  had  not  done  and  for  consequences 
he  had  never  foreseen.  The  truth  of  the  ancient  legends — what  gives  them 
their  fascinating  actuality  many  centuries  after  the  cities  and  empires  and 
peoples  they  served  have  crumbled  to  dust — was  nothing  but  the  form  in 
which  past  events  were  made  to  fit  the  human  condition  in  general  and 
political  aspirations  in  particular.  Only  in  the  frankly  invented  tale  about 
events  did  man  consent  to  assume  his  responsibility  for  them,  and  to  con- 
sider past  events  his  past.  Legends  made  him  master  of  what  he  had  not 
done,  and  capable  of  dealing  with  what  he  could  not  undo.  In  this  sense, 
legends  are  not  only  among  the  first  memories  of  mankind,  but  actually  the 
true  beginning  of  human  history. 

The  flourishing  of  historical  and  political  legends  came  to  a rather  abrupt 
end  with  the  birth  of  Christianity.  Its  interpretation  of  history,  from  the  days 
of  Adam  to  the  Last  Judgment,  as  one  single  road  to  redemption  and  salva- 
tion, oUcrcd  the  most  powerful  and  all-inclusive  legendary  explanation  of 
human  destiny.  Only  after  the  spiritual  unity  of  Christian  peoples  gave  way 
to  the  plurality  of  nations,  when  the  road  to  salvation  became  an  uncertain 
article  of  individual  faith  rather  than  a universal  theory  applicable  to  all 
happenings,  did  new  kinds  of  historical  explanations  emerge.  The  nineteenth 
century  has  offered  us  the  curious  spectacle  of  an  almost  simultaneous  birth 
of  the  most  varying  and  contradictory  ideologies,  each  of  which  claimed  to 
know  the  hidden  truth  about  otherwise  incomprehensible  facts.  Legends, 
however,  are  not  ideologies;  they  do  not  aim  at  universal  explanation  but 
are  always  concerned  with  concrete  facts.  It  seems  rather  significant  that 
the  growth  of  national  bodies  was  nowhere  accompanied  by  a foundation 
legend,  and  that  a first  unique  attempt  in  modem  times  was  made  precisely 
when  the  decline  of  the  national  body  had  become  obvious  and  imperialism 
seemed  to  take  the  place  of  old-fashioned  nationalism. 

The  author  of  the  imperialist  legend  is  Rudyard  Kipling,  its  topic  is  the 



British  Empire,  its  result  the  imperialist  character  (imperialism  was  the 
only  school  of  character  in  modern  politics).  And  while  the  legend  of  the 
British  Empire  has  little  to  do  with  the  realities  of  British  imperialism,  it 
forced  or  deluded  into  its  services  the  best  sons  of  England.  For  legends  at- 
tract the  very  best  in  our  times,  just  as  ideologies  attract  the  average,  and  the 
whispered  tales  of  gruesome  secret  powers  behind  the  scenes  attract  the  very 
worst.  No  doubt,  no  political  structure  could  have  been  more  evocative  of 
legendary  tales  and  justifications  than  the  British  Empire,  than  the  British 
people’s  drifting  from  the  conscious  founding  of  colonies  into  ruling  and 
dominating  foreign  peoples  all  over  the  world. 

The  foundation  legend,  as  Kipling  tells  it,  starts  from  the  fundamental 
reality  of  the  people  of  the  British  Isles.01  Surrounded  by  the  sea,  they  need 
and  win  the  help  of  the  three  elements  of  Water,  Wind,  and  Sun  through  the 
invention  of  the  Ship.  The  ship  made  the  always  dangerous  alliance  with  the 
elements  possible  and  made  the  Englishman  master  of  the  world.  “You’ll 
win  the  world,”  says  Kipling,  “without  anyone  caring  how  you  did  it:  you’ll 
keep  the  world  without  anyone  knowing  how  you  did  it:  and  you’ll  carry  the 
world  on  your  backs  without  anyone  seeing  how  you  did  it.  But  neither  you 
nor  your  sons  will  get  anything  out  of  that  little  job  except  Four  Gifts — one 
for  the  Sea,  one  for  the  Wind,  one  for  the  Sun  and  one  for  the  Ship  that 
carries  you.  . . . For,  winning  the  world,  and  keeping  the  world,  and  carry- 
ing the  world  on  their  backs — on  land,  or  on  sea,  or  in  the  air — your  sons 
will  always  have  the  Four  Gifts.  Long-headed  and  slow-spoken  and  heavy 
— damned  heavy — in  the  hand,  will  they  be;  and  always  a little  bit  to  wind- 
ward of  every  enemy — that  they  may  be  a safeguard  to  all  who  pass  on  the 
seas  on  their  lawful  occasions.” 

What  brings  the  little  tale  of  the  “First  Sailor”  so  close  to  ancient  founda- 
tion legends  is  that  it  presents  the  British  as  the  only  politically  mature 
people,  caring  for  law  and  burdened  with  the  welfare  of  the  world,  in  the 
midst  of  barbarian  tribes  who  neither  care  nor  know  what  keeps  the  world 
together.  Unfortunately  this  presentation  lacked  the  innate  truth  of  ancient 
legends;  the  world  cared  and  knew  and  saw  how  they  did  it  and  no  such 
tale  could  ever  have  convinced  the  world  that  they  did  not  “get  anything  out 
of  that  little  job.”  Yet  there  was  a certain  reality  in  England  herself  which 
corresponded  to  Kipling’s  legend  and  made  it  at  all  possible,  and  that  was 
the  existence  of  such  virtues  as  chivalry,  nobility,  bravery,  even  though  they 
were  utterly  out  of  place  in  a political  reality  ruled  by  Cecil  Rhodes  or  Lord 

The  fact  that  the  “white  man’s  burden”  is  either  hypocrisy  or  racism  has 
not  prevented  a few  of  the  best  Englishmen  from  shouldering  the  burden  in 
earnest  and  making  themselves  the  tragic  and  quixotic  fools  of  imperialism. 
As  real  in  England  as  the  tradition  of  hypocrisy  is  another  less  obvious  one 
which  one  is  tempted  to  call  a tradition  of  dragon-slayers  who  went  enthusi- 
astically into  far  and  curious  lands  to  strange  and  naive  peoples  to  slay  the 

Rudyard  Kipling,  “The  First  Sailor,”  in  Humorous  Tales,  1891. 



numerous  dragons  that  had  plagued  them  for  centuries.  There  is  more  than 
a rain  of  truth  in  Kipling  s other  tale,  “The  Tomb  of  His  Ancestor,”  02 
in  which  the  Chinn  family  “serve  India  generation  after  generation,  as 
dolphins  follow  in  line  across  the  open  sea.”  They  shoot  the  deer  that  steals 
the  poor  man's  crop,  teach  him  the  mysteries  of  better  agricultural  methods, 
free  him  from  some  of  his  more  harmful  superstitions  and  kill  lions  and 
timers  in  erand  style.  Their  only  reward  is  indeed  a tomb  of  ancestors  and 
a "family  legend,  believed  by  the  whole  Indian  tribe,  according  to  which  “the 
revered  ancestor  ...  has  a tiger  of  his  own — a saddle  tiger  that  he  rides 
round  the  country  whenever  he  feels  inclined.”  Unfortunately,  this  riding 
around  the  countryside  is  “a  sure  sign  of  war  or  pestilence  or — or  some- 
thing,” and  in  this  particular  case  it  is  a sign  of  vaccination.  So  that  Chinn 
the  Youngest,  a not  very  important  underling  in  the  hierarchy  of  the  Army 
Services,  but  all-important  as  far  as  the  Indian  tribe  is  concerned,  has  to 
shoot  the  beast  of  his  ancestor  so  that  people  can  be  vaccinated  without  fear 
of  “war  or  pestilence  or  something.” 

As  modern  life  goes,  the  Chinns  indeed  “are  luckier  than  most  folks.” 
Their  chance  is  that  they  were  born  into  a career  that  gently  and  naturally 
leads  them  to  the  realization  of  the  best  dreams  of  youth.  When  other  boys 
have  to  forget  “noble  dreams,”  they  happen  to  be  just  old  enough  to  trans- 
late them  into  action.  And  when  after  thirty  years  of  service  they  retire, 
their  steamer  will  pass  “the  outward  bound  troopship,  carrying  his  son  east- 
ward to  the  family  duty,”  so  that  the  power  of  old  Mr.  Chinn’s  existence  as 
a government-appointed  and  army-paid  dragon-slayer  can  be  imparted  to  the 
next  generation.  No  doubt,  the  British  government  pays  them  for  their  serv- 
ices, but  it  is  not  at  all  clear  in  whose  service  they  eventually  land.  There 
is  a strong  possibility  that  they  really  serve  this  particular  Indian  tribe,  gen- 
eration after  generation,  and  it  is  consoling  all  around  that  at  least  the  tribe 
itself  is  convinced  of  this.  The  fact  that  the  higher  services  know  hardly 
anything  of  little  Lieutenant  Chinn’s  strange  duties  and  adventures,  that 
they  are  hardly  aware  of  his  being  a successful  reincarnation  of  his  grand- 
father, gives  his  dreamlike  double  existence  an  undisturbed  basis  in  reality.  He 
is  simply  at  home  in  two  worlds,  separated  by  water-  and  gossip-tight  walls. 
Born  in  “the  heart  of  the  scrubby  tigerish  country”  and  educated  among  his 
own  people  in  peaceful,  well-balanced,  ill-informed  England,  he  is  ready  to 
live  permanently  with  two  peoples  and  is  rooted  in  and  well  acquainted  with 
the  tradition,  language,  superstition,  and  prejudices  of  both.  At  a moment’s 
notice  he  can  change  from  the  obedient  underling  of  one  of  His  Majesty’s 
soldiers  into  an  exciting  and  noble  figure  in  the  natives’  world,  a well-beloved 
protector  of  the  weak,  the  dragon-slayer  of  old  talcs. 

The  point  is  that  these  queer  quixotic  protectors  of  the  weak  who  played 
their  role  behind  the  scenes  of  official  British  rule  were  not  so  much  the 
product  of  a primitive  people's  naive  imagination  as  of  dreams  which  con- 
tained the  best  of  European  and  Christian  traditions,  even  when  they  had 

82  In  The  Day’s  Work,  1898. 



already  deteriorated  into  the  futility  of  boyhood  ideals.  It  was  neither  His 
Majesty’s  soldier  nor  the  British  higher  official  who  could  teach  the  natives 
something  of  the  greatness  of  the  Western  world.  Only  those  who  had  never 
been  able  to  outgrow  their  boyhood  ideals  and  therefore  had  enlisted  in  the 
colonial  services  were  fit  for  the  task.  Imperialism  to  them  was  nothing  but 
an  accidental  opportunity  to  escape  a society  in  which  a man  had  to  forget 
his  youth  if  he  wanted  to  grow  up.  English  society  was  only  too  glad  to  see 
them  depart  to  faraway  countries,  a circumstance  which  permitted  the  tolera- 
tion and  even  the  furtherance  of  boyhood  ideals  in  the  public  school  system; 
the  colonial  services  took  them  away  from  England  and  prevented,  so  to 
speak,  their  converting  the  ideals  of  their  boyhood  into  the  mature  ideas  of 
men.  Strange  and  curious  lands  attracted  the  best  of  England’s  youth  since 
the  end  of  the  nineteenth  century,  deprived  her  society  of  the  most  honest 
and  the  most  dangerous  elements,  and  guaranteed,  in  addition  to  this  bliss, 
a certain  conservation,  or  perhaps  petrification,  of  boyhood  noblesse  which 
preserved  and  infantilized  Western  moral  standards. 

Lord  Cromer,  secretary  to  the  Viceroy  and  financial  member  in  the  pre- 
imperialist  government  of  India,  still  belonged  in  the  category  of  British 
dragon-slayers.  Led  solely  by  “the  sense  of  sacrifice”  for  backward  popula- 
tions and  “the  sense  of  duty”  63  to  the  glory  of  Great  Britain  that  “has  given 
birth  to  a class  of  officials  who  have  both  the  desire  and  the  capacity  to 
govern,”  64  he  declined  in  1894  the  post  of  Viceroy  and  refused  ten  years 
later  the  position  of  Secretary  of  State  for  Foreign  Affairs.  Instead  of  such 
honors,  which  would  have  satisfied  a lesser  man,  he  became  the  little-publi- 
cized and  all-powerful  British  Consul  General  in  Egypt  from  1883  to  1907. 
There  he  became  the  first  imperialist  administrator,  certainly  “second  to 
none  among  those  who  by  their  services  have  glorified  the  British  race”; 65 
perhaps  the  last  to  die  in  undisturbed  pride:  “Let  these  suffice  for  Britain’s 
meed — / No  nobler  price  was  ever  won,  / The  blessings  of  a people  freed  / 
The  consciousness  of  duty  done.”  06 

Cromer  went  to  Egypt  because  he  realized  that  “the  Englishman  straining 
far  over  to  hold  his  loved  India  [has  to]  plant  a firm  foot  on  the  banks  of 
the  Nile.”  67  Egypt  was  to  him  only  a means  to  an  end,  a necessary  expansion 
for  the  sake  of  security  for  India.  At  almost  the  same  moment  it  happened 
that  another  Englishman  set  foot  on  the  African  continent,  though  at  its  op- 
posite end  and  for  opposite  reasons:  Cecil  Rhodes  went  to  South  Africa 
and  saved  the  Cape  colony  after  it  had  lost  all  importance  for  the  English- 
man’s “loved  India.”  Rhodes’s  ideas  on  expansion  were  far  more  advanced 

63  Lawrence  J.  Zelland,  Lord  Cromer,  1932,  p.  16. 

04  Lord  Cromer,  “The  Government  of  Subject  Races”  in  Edinburgh  Review,  Janu- 
ary, 1908. 

65  Lord  Curzon  at  the  unveiling  of  the  memorial  tablet  for  Cromer.  See  Zetland, 
op . c/7.,  p.  362. 

66  Quoted  from  a long  poem  by  Cromer.  See  Zetland,  op.  cit.,  pp.  17-18. 

67  From  a letter  Lord  Cromer  wrote  in  1882.  Ibid.,  p.  87. 



than  those  of  his  more  respectable  colleague  in  the  north;  to  him  expansion  did 
not  need  to  be  justified  by  such  sensible  motives  as  the  holding  of  what  one 
already  possessed.  “Expansion  was  everything”  and  India,  South  Africa,  and 
Egypt  were  equally  important  or  unimportant  as  stepping-stones  in  an  ex- 
pansion limited  only  by  the  size  of  the  earth.  There  certainly  was  an  abyss 
between  the  vulgar  megalomaniac  and  the  educated  man  of  sacrifice  and 
duty;  yet  they  arrived  at  roughly  identical  results  and  were  equally  respon- 
sible for  the  “Great  Game”  of  secrecy,  which  was  no  less  insane  and  no  less 
detrimental  to  politics  than  the  phantom  world  of  race. 

The  outstanding  similarity  between  Rhodes’s  rule  in  South  Africa  and 
Cromer’s  domination  of  Egypt  was  that  both  regarded  the  countries  not  as 
desirable  ends  in  themselves  but  merely  as  means  for  some  supposedly  higher 
purpose.  They  were  similar  therefore  in  their  indifference  and  aloofness,  in 
their  genuine  lack  of  interest  in  their  subjects,  an  attitude  which  differed  as 
much  from  the  cruelty  and  arbitrariness  of  native  despots  in  Asia  as  from  the 
exploiting  carelessness  of  conquerors,  or  the  insane  and  anarchic  oppression 
of  one  race  tribe  through  another.  As  soon  as  Cromer  started  to  rule  Egypt 
for  the  sake  of  India,  he  lost  his  role  of  protector  of  “backward  peoples” 
and  could  no  longer  sincerely  believe  that  “the  self-interest  of  the  subject- 
races  is  the  principal  basis  of  the  whole  Imperial  fabric.”  68 

Aloofness  became  the  new  attitude  of  all  members  of  the  British  services; 
it  was  a more  dangerous  form  of  governing  than  despotism  and  arbitrariness 
because  it  did  not  even  tolerate  that  last  link  between  the  despot  and  his  sub- 
jects, which  is  formed  by  bribery  and  gifts.  The  very  integrity  of  the  British 
administration  made  despotic  government  more  inhuman  and  inaccessible 
to  its  subjects  than  Asiatic  rulers  or  reckless  conquerors  had  ever  been.69 
Integrity  and  aloofness  were  symbols  for  an  absolute  division  of  interests 
to  the  point  where  they  are  not  even  permitted  to  conflict.  In  comparison, 
exploitation,  oppression,  or  corruption  look  like  safeguards  of  human  dig- 
nity, because  exploiter  and  exploited,  oppressor  and  oppressed,  corruptor 
and  corrupted  still  live  in  the  same  world,  still  share  the  same  goals,  fight 
each  other  for  the  possession  of  the  same  things;  and  it  is  this  tertium  com - 
parationis  which  aloofness  destroyed.  Worst  of  all  was  the  fact  that  the  aloof 
administrator  was  hardly  aware  that  he  had  invented  a new  form  of  govern- 
ment but  actually  believed  that  his  attitude  was  conditioned  by  “the  forcible 
contact  with  a people  living  on  a lower  plane.”  So,  instead  of  believing  in 
his  individual  superiority  with  some  degree  of  essentially  harmless  vanity, 
he  fell  that  he  belonged  to  “a  nation  which  had  reached  a comparatively 
high  plane  of  civilization”  70  and  therefore  held  his  position  by  right  of  birth, 
regardless  of  personal  achievements. 

Lord  Cromer’s  career  is  fascinating  because  it  embodies  the  very  turning 

Lord  Cromer,  op.  cit. 

Bribery  was  perhaps  the  most  human  institution  among  the  barbed-wire  entangle- 
NewVor^l^lT^11  M°'SS*ye  J*  °lgin’  The  Soul  oj  the  Russian  Revolution, 

70  Zetland,  op.  cit.,  p.  89. 



point  from  the  older  colonial  to  imperialist  services.  His  first  reaction  to  his 
duties  in  Egypt  was  a marked  uneasiness  and  concern  about  a state  of  af- 
fairs which  was  not  “annexation”  but  a “hybrid  form  of  government  to  which 
no  name  can  be  given  and  for  which  there  is  no  precedent.”  71  In  1885,  after 
two  years  of  service,  he  still  harbored  serious  doubts  about  a system  in  which 
he  was  the  nominal  British  Consul  General  and  the  actual  ruler  of  Egypt 
and  wrote  that  a “highly  delicate  mechanism  [whose]  efficient  working  de- 
pends very  greatly  on  the  judgment  and  ability  of  a few  individuals  . . . can 
...  be  justified  [only]  if  we  are  able  to  keep  before  our  eyes  the  possibility 
of  evacuation.  ...  If  that  possibility  becomes  so  remote  as  to  be  of  no 
practical  account  ...  it  would  be  better  for  us  ...  to  arrange  . . . with 
the  other  Powers  that  we  should  take  over  the  government  of  the  country, 
guarantee  its  debt,  etc.”  72  No  doubt  Cromer  was  right,  and  either,  occupa- 
tion or  evacuation,  would  have  normalized  matters.  But  that  “hybrid  form 
of  government”  without  precedent  was  to  become  characteristic  of  all  im- 
perialist enterprise,  with  the  result  that  a few  decades  afterwards  everybody 
had  lost  Cromer’s  early  sound  judgment  about  possible  and  impossible  forms 
of  government,  just  as  there  was  lost  Lord  Selboume’s  early  insight  that  a 
race  society  as  a way  of  life  was  unprecedented.  Nothing  could  better  char- 
acterize the  initial  stage  of  imperialism  than  the  combination  of  these  two 
judgments  on  conditions  in  Africa:  a way  of  life  without  precedent  in  the 
south,  a government  without  precedent  in  the  north. 

In  the  following  years,  Cromer  reconciled  himself  to  the  “hybrid  form 
of  government”;  in  his  letters  he  began  to  justify  it  and  to  expound  the  need 
for  the  government  without  name  and  precedent.  At  the  end  of  his  life,  he 
laid  down  (in  his  essay  on  “The  Government  of  Subject  Races”)  the  main 
lines  of  what  one  may  well  call  a philosophy  of  the  bureaucrat. 

Cromer  started  by  recognizing  that  “personal  influence”  without  a legal 
or  written  political  treaty  could  be  enough  for  “sufficiently  effective  super- 
vision over  public  affairs”  73  in  foreign  countries.  This  kind  of  informal  in- 
fluence was  preferable  to  a well-defined  policy  because  it  could  be  altered 
at  a moment’s  notice  and  did  not  necessarily  involve  the  home  government 
in  case  of  difficulties.  It  required  a highly  trained,  highly  reliable  staff  whose 
loyalty  and  patriotism  were  not  connected  with  personal  ambition  or  vanity 
and  who  would  even  be  required  to  renounce  the  human  aspiration  of  having 
their  names  connected  with  their  achievements.  Their  greatest  passion  would 
have  to  be  for  secrecy  (“the  less  British  officials  are  talked  about  the 
better”),74  for  a role  behind  the  scenes;  their  greatest  contempt  would  be 
directed  at  publicity  and  people  who  love  it. 

Cromer  himself  possessed  all  these  qualities  to  a very  high  degree;  his 
wrath  was  never  more  strongly  aroused  than  when  he  was  “brought  out  of 

71  From  a letter  Lord  Cromer  wrote  in  1884.  Ibid.,  p.  117. 

72  In  a letter  to  Lord  Granville,  a member  of  the  Liberal  Party,  in  1885.  Ibid.,  p.  219. 

73  From  a letter  to  Lord  Rosebery  in  1886.  Ibid.,  p.  134. 

74  Ibid.,  p.  352. 



llusl  hiding  place/*  when  “the  reality  which  before  was  only  known  to  a 
few  behind  the  scenes  [became]  patent  to  all  the  world.”  70  His  pride  was 
indeed  to  “remain  more  or  less  hidden  [and]  to  pull  the  strings.”  70  In  ex- 
change. and  in  order  to  make  his  work  possible  at  all,  the  bureaucrat  has  to 
feel  safe  from  control — the  praise  as  well  as  the  blame,  that  is — of  all  public 
institutions,  either  Parliament,  the  “English  Departments,”  or  the  press. 
Ever)  growth  of  democracy  or  even  the  simple  functioning  of  existing 
democratic  institutions  can  only  be  a danger,  for  it  is  impossible  to  govern 
“a  people  by  a people — the  people  of  India  by  the  people  of  England.”  77 
Bureaucracy  is  always  a government  of  experts,  of  an  experienced  minority 
which  has  to  resist  as  well  as  it  knows  how  the  constant  pressure  from  “the 
inexperienced  majority.”  Each  people  is  fundamentally  an  inexperienced 
majority  and  can  therefore  not  be  trusted  with  such  a highly  specialized 
matter  as  politics  and  public  affairs.  Bureaucrats,  moreover,  are  not  sup- 
posed to  have  general  ideas  about  political  matters  at  all;  their  patriotism 
should  never  lead  them  so  far  astray  that  they  believe  in  the  inherent  good- 
ness of  political  principles  in  their  own  country;  that  would  only  result  in 
their  cheap  “imitative”  application  “to  the  government  of  backward  popula- 
tions,” which,  according  to  Cromer,  was  the  principal  defect  of  the  French 

Nobody  will  ever  pretend  that  Cecil  Rhodes  suffered  from  a lack  of 
vanity.  According  to  Jameson,  he  expected  to  be  remembered  for  at  least 
four  thousand  years.  Yet,  despite  all  his  appetite  for  self-glorification,  he  hit 
upon  the  same  idea  of  rule  through  secrecy  as  the  overmodest  Lord  Cromer. 
Extremely  fond  of  drawing  up  wills,  Rhodes  insisted  in  all  of  them  (over 
the  course  of  two  decades  of  his  public  life)  that  his  money  should  be  used 
to  found  “a  secret  society  ...  to  carry  out  his  scheme,”  which  was  to  be 
“organized  like  Loyola’s,  supported  by  the  accumulated  wealth  of  those 
whose  aspiration  is  a desire  to  do  something,”  so  that  eventually  there  would 
be  “between  two  and  three  thousand  men  in  the  prime  of  life  scattered  all 
over  the  world,  each  one  of  whom  would  have  had  impressed  upon  his  mind 
in  the  most  susceptible  period  of  his  life  the  dream  of  the  Founder,  each 
one  of  whom,  moreover,  would  have  been  especially — mathematically — 
selected  towards  the  Founder’s  purpose.”  79  More  farsighted  than  Cromer, 

75  From  a letter  to  Lord  Rosebery  in  1893.  Ibid.,  pp.  204-205. 

70  From  a letter  to  Lord  Rosebery  in  1893.  Ibid.,  p.  192. 

77  From  a speech  by  Cromer  in  Parliament  after  1904.  Ibid.,  p.  311. 

78  During  the  negotiations  and  considerations  of  the  administrative  pattern  for  the 
annexation  of  the  Sudan,  Cromer  insisted  on  keeping  the  whole  matter  outside  the 
sphere  of  French  influence;  he  did  this  not  because  he  wanted  to  secure  a monopoly  in 
Africa  for  England  but  much  rather  because  he  had  “the  utmost  want  of  confidence  in 
their  administrative  system  as  applied  to  subject  races”  (from  a letter  to  Salisbury  in 
1899,  Ibid.,  p.  248). 

79  Rhodes  drew  up  six  wills  (the  first  was  already  composed  in  1877),  all  of  which 
mention  the  “secret  society.”  For  extensive  quotes,  see  Basil  Williams,  Cecil  Rhodes , 
London,  1921,  and  Millin,  op.  cit.,  pp.  128  and  331.  The  citations  are  upon  the  authority 
of  W.  T.  Stead. 



Rhodes  opened  the  society  at  once  to  all  members  of  the  “Nordic  race”  80  so 
that  the  aim  was  not  so  much  the  growth  and  glory  of  Great  Britain — her 
occupation  of  the  “entire  continent  of  Africa,  the  Holy  Land,  the  valley  of 
the  Euphrates,  the  islands  of  Cyprus  and  Candia,  the  whole  of  South  Amer- 
ica, the  islands  of  the  Pacific,  ...  the  whole  of  the  Malay  Archipelago, 
the  seaboards  of  China  and  Japan  [and]  the  ultimate  recovery  of  the  United 
States”  81 — as  the  expansion  of  the  “Nordic  race”  which,  organized  in  a 
secret  society,  would  establish  a bureaucratic  government  over  all  peoples 
of  the  earth. 

What  overcame  Rhodes’s  monstrous  innate  vanity  and  made  him  dis- 
cover the  charms  of  secrecy  was  the  same  thing  that  overcame  Cromer’s 
innate  sense  of  duty:  the  discovery  of  an  expansion  which  was  not  driven 
by  the  specific  appetite  for  a specific  country  but  conceived  as  an  endless 
process  in  which  every  country  would  serve  only  as  stepping-stone  for  further 
expansion.  In  view  of  such  a concept,  the  desire  for  glory  can  no  longer 
be  satisfied  by  the  glorious  triumph  over  a specific  people  for  the  sake  of 
one’s  own  people,  nor  can  the  sense  of  duty  be  fulfilled  through  the  con- 
sciousness of  specific  services  and  the  fulfillment  of  specific  tasks.  No  matter 
what  individual  qualities  or  defects  a man  may  have,  once  he  has  entered 
the  maelstrom  of  an  unending  process  of  expansion,  he  will,  as  it  were, 
cease  to  be  what  he  was  and  obey  the  laws  of  the  process,  identify  himself 
with  anonymous  forces  that  he  is  supposed  to  serve  in  order  to  keep  the 
whole  process  in  motion;  he  will  think  of  himself  as  mere  function,  and 
eventually  consider  such  functionality,  such  an  incarnation  of  the  dynamic 
trend,  his  highest  possible  achievement.  Then,  as  Rhodes  was  insane  enough 
to  say,  he  could  indeed  “do  nothing  wrong,  what  he  did  became  right.  It 
was  his  duty  to  do  what  he  wanted.  He  felt  himself  a god — nothing  less.”  82 
But  Lord  Cromer  sanely  pointed  out  the  same  phenomenon  of  men  degrad- 
ing themselves  voluntarily  into  mere  instruments  or  mere  functions  when  he 
called  the  bureaucrats  “instruments  of  incomparable  value  in  the  execution 
of  a policy  of  Imperialism.”  83 

It  is  obvious  that  these  secret  and  anonymous  agents  of  the  force  of  ex- 
pansion felt  no  obligation  to  man-made  laws.  The  only  “law”  they  obeyed 
was  the  “law”  of  expansion,  and  the  only  proof  of  their  “lawfulness”  was 
success.  They  had  to  be  perfectly  willing  to  disappear  into  complete  oblivion 
once  failure  had  been  proved,  if  for  any  reason  they  were  no  longer  “in- 
struments of  incomparable  value.”  As  long  as  they  were  successful,  the 
feeling  of  embodying  forces  greater  than  themselves  made  it  relatively  easy 
to  resign  and  even  to  despise  applause  and  glorification.  They  were  monsters 
of  conceit  in  their  success  and  monsters  of  modesty  in  their  failure. 

80  It  is  well  known  that  Rhodes’s  “secret  society”  ended  as  the  very  respectable 
Rhodes  Scholarship  Association  to  which  even  today  not  only  Englishmen  but  mem- 
bers of  all  “Nordic  races,”  such  as  Germans,  Scandinavians,  and  Americans,  are 

81  Basil  Williams,  op.  cit.,  p.  51. 

82  Millin,  op.  cit.,  p.  92. 

83  Cromer,  op.  cit. 



At  the  basis  of  bureaucracy  as  a form  of  government,  and  of  its  inherent 
replacement  of  law  with  temporary  and  changing  decrees,  lies  this  supersti- 
tion of  a possible  and  magic  identification  of  man  with  the  forces  of  history. 
The  ideal  of  such  a political  body  will  always  be  the  man  behind  the  scenes 
who  pulls  the  strings  of  history.  Cromer  finally  shunned  every  “written  in- 
strument, or,  indeed,  anything  which  is  tangible”  84  in  his  relationships  with 
£g\pt — even  a proclamation  of  annexation — in  order  to  be  free  to  obey 
only  the  law  of  expansion,  without  obligation  to  a man-made  treaty.  Thus 
does  the  bureaucrat  shun  every  general  law,  handling  each  situation  sepa- 
rately by  decree,  because  a law’s  inherent  stability  threatens  to  establish  a 
permanent  community  in  which  nobody  could  possibly  be  a god  because  all 
would  have  to  obey  a law. 

The  two  key  figures  in  this  system,  whose  very  essence  is  aimless  process, 
arc  the  bureaucrat  on  one  side  and  the  secret  agent  on  the  other.  Both  types, 
as  long  as  they  served  only  British  imperialism,  never  quite  denied  that 
they  were  descended  from  dragon-slayers  and  protectors  of  the  weak  and 
therefore  never  drove  bureaucratic  regimes  to  their  inherent  extremes.  A 
British  bureaucrat  almost  two  decades  after  Cromer’s  death  knew  “adminis- 
trative massacres”  could  keep  India  within  the  British  Empire,  but  he  knew 
also  how  utopian  it  would  be  to  try  to  get  the  support  of  the  hated  “Eng- 
lish Departments”  for  an  otherwise  quite  realistic  plan.85  Lord  Curzon, 
Viceroy  of  India,  showed  nothing  of  Cromer’s  noblesse  and  was  quite 
characteristic  of  a society  that  increasingly  inclined  to  accept  the  mob’s 
race  standards  if  they  were  offered  in  the  form  of  fashionable  snobbery.86 
But  snobbery  is  incompatible  with  fanaticism  and  therefore  never  really 

The  same  is  true  of  the  members  of  the  British  Secret  Service.  They  too 
are  of  illustrious  origin — what  the  dragon-slayer  was  to  the  bureaucrat,  the 
adventurer  is  to  the  secret  agent — and  they  too  can  rightly  lay  claim  to  a 

84  From  a letter  of  Lord  Cromer  to  Lord  Rosebery  in  1886.  Zetland,  op.  cit.,  p.  134. 

85  “The  Indian  system  of  government  by  reports  was  . . . suspect  [in  England]. 
There  was  no  trial  by  jury  in  India  and  the  judges  were  all  paid  servants  of  the  Crown, 
many  of  them  removable  at  pleasure.  . . . Some  of  the  men  of  formal  law  felt  rather 
uneasy  as  to  the  success  of  the  Indian  experiment.  ‘If,’  they  said,  ‘despotism  and 
bureaucracy  work  so  well  in  India,  may  not  that  be  perhaps  at  some  time  used  as  an 
argument  for  introducing  something  of  the  same  system  here?’”  The  government  of 
India,  at  any  rate,  “knew  well  enough  that  it  would  have  to  justify  its  existence  and  its 
policy  before  public  opinion  in  England,  and  it  well  knew  that  that  public  opinion  would 
never  tolerate  oppression”  (A.  Carthill,  op.  cit.,  pp.  70  and  41-42). 

Harold  Nicolson  in  bis  Curzon:  The  Last  Phase  1919-1925 , Boston-New  York, 
19  4,  tells  the  following  story:  “Behind  the  lines  in  Flanders  was  a large  brewery  in  the 
vats  of  which  the  private  soldiers  would  bathe  on  returning  from  the  trenches.  Curzon 
was  taken  to  sec  this  dantesque  exhibit.  He  watched  with  interest  those  hundred  naked 
gures  disporting  themselves  in  the  steam.  ‘Dear  me!,’  he  said,  ‘I  had  no  conception 
that  the  lower  classes  had  such  white  skins.’  Curzon  would  deny  the  authenticity  of 
this  story  but  loved  it  none  the  less”  (pp.  47-48). 


foundation  legend,  the  legend  of  the  Great  Game  as  told  by  Rudyard  Kipling 
in  Kim. 

Of  course  every  adventurer  knows  what  Kipling  means  when  he  praises 
Kim  because  “what  he  loved  was  the  game  for  its  own  sake.”  Every  person 
still  able  to  wonder  at  “this  great  and  wonderful  world”  knows  that  it  is 
hardly  an  argument  against  the  game  when  “missionaries  and  secretaries  of 
charitable  societies  could  not  see  the  beauty  of  it.”  Still  less,  it  seems,  have 
those  a right  to  speak  who  think  it  “a  sin  to  kiss  a white  girl’s  mouth  and 
a virtue  to  kiss  a black  man’s  shoe.”  87  Since  life  itself  ultimately  has  to  be 
lived  and  loved  for  its  own  sake,  adventure  and  love  of  the  game  for  its 
own  sake  easily  appear  to  be  a most  intensely  human  symbol  of  life.  It 
is  this  underlying  passionate  humanity  that  makes  Kim  the  only  novel  of 
the  imperialist  era  in  which  a genuine  brotherhood  links  together  the 
“higher  and  lower  breeds,”  in  which  Kim,  “a  Sahib  and  the  son  of  a 
Sahib,”  can  rightly  talk  of  “us”  when  he  talks  of  the  “chain-men,”  “all 
on  one  lead-rope.”  There  is  more  to  this  “we” — strange  in  the  mouth 
of  a believer  in  imperialism — than  the  all-enveloping  anonymity  of  men 
who  are  proud  to  have  “no  name,  but  only  a number  and  a letter,”  more 
than  the  common  pride  of  having  “a  price  upon  [one’s]  head.”  What 
makes  them  comrades  is  the  common  experience  of  being — through  dan- 
ger, fear,  constant  surprise,  utter  lack  of  habits,  constant  preparedness 
to  change  their  identities — symbols  of  life  itself,  symbols,  for  instance, 
of  happenings  all  over  India,  immediately  sharing  the  life  of  it  all  as 
“it  runs  like  a shuttle  throughout  all  Hind,”  and  therefore  no  longer 
“alone,  one  person,  in  the  middle  of  it  all,”  trapped,  as  it  were,  by  the 
limitations  of  one’s  own  individuality  or  nationality.  Playing  the  Great 
Game,  a man  may  feel  as  though  he  lives  the  only  life  worth  while  because 
he  has  been  stripped  of  everything  which  may  still  be  considered  to  be 
accessory.  Life  itself  seems  to  be  left,  in  a fantastically  intensified  purity, 
when  man  has  cut  himself  off  from  all  ordinary  social  ties,  family,  regular 
occupation,  a definite  goal,  ambitions,  and  the  guarded  place  in  a com- 
munity to  which  he  belongs  by  birth.  “When  every  one  is  dead  the  Great 
Game  is  finished.  Not  before.”  When  one  is  dead,  life  is  finished,  not  before, 
not  when  one  happens  to  achieve  whatever  he  may  have  wanted.  That  the 
game  has  no  ultimate  purpose  makes  it  so  dangerously  similar  to  life  itself. 

Purposelessness  is  the  very  charm  of  Kim’s  existence.  Not  for  the  sake 
of  England  did  he  accept  his  strange  duties,  nor  for  the  sake  of  India,  nor  for 
any  other  worthy  or  unworthy  cause.  Imperialist  notions  like  expansion  for 
expansion’s  or  power  for  power’s  sake  might  have  suited  him,  but  he  would 
not  have  cared  particularly  and  certainly  would  not  have  constructed  any 
such  formula.  He  stepped  into  his  peculiar  way  of  “theirs  not  to  reason 
why,  theirs  but  to  do  and  die”  without  even  asking  the  first  question.  He 
was  tempted  only  by  the  basic  endlessness  of  the  game  and  by  secrecy  as 

87  Carthill,  op.  cit.,  p.  88. 



such.  And  sccrccy  again  seems  like  a symbol  of  the  basic  mysteriousness  of 

^Somehow  it  was  not  the  fault  of  the  born  adventurers,  of  those  who  by 
their  very  nature  dwelt  outside  society  and  outside  all  political  bodies,  that 
they  found  in  imperialism  a political  game  that  was  endless  by  definition, 
they  were  not  supposed  to  know  that  in  politics  an  endless  game  can  end 
only  in  catastrophe  and  that  political  secrecy  hardly  ever  ends  in  anything 
nobler  than  the  vulgar  duplicity  of  a spy.  The  joke  on  these  players  of  the 
Great  Game  was  that  their  employers  knew  what  they  wanted  and  used  their 
passion  for  anonymity  for  ordinary  spying.  But  this  triumph  of  the  profit- 
hungry  investors  was  temporary,  and  they  were  duly  cheated  when  a few 
decades  later  they  met  the  players  of  the  game  of  totalitarianism,  a game 
played  without  ulterior  motives  like  profit  and  therefore  played  with  such 
murderous  efficiency  that  it  devoured  even  those  who  financed  it. 

Before  this  happened,  however,  the  imperialists  had  destroyed  the  best 
man  who  ever  turned  from  an  adventurer  (with  a strong  mixture  of  dragon- 
slayer)  into  a secret  agent,  Lawrence  of  Arabia.  Never  again  was  the  experi- 
ment of  secret  politics  made  more  purely  by  a more  decent  man.  Lawrence 
experimented  fearlessly  upon  himself,  and  then  came  back  and  believed  that 
he  belonged  to  the  “lost  generation.”  He  thought  this  was  because  “the  old 
men  came  out  again  and  took  from  us  our  victory”  in  order  to  “re-make 
[the  world]  in  the  likeness  of  the  former  world  they  knew.”  88  Actually  the 
old  men  were  quite  inefficient  even  in  this,  and  handed  their  victory,  together 
with  their  power,  down  to  other  men  of  the  same  “lost  generation,”  who 
were  neither  older  nor  so  dissimilar  to  Lawrence.  The  only  difference  was 
that  Lawrence  still  clung  fast  to  a morality  which,  however,  had  already 
lost  all  objective  bases  and  consisted  only  of  a kind  of  private  and  neces- 
sarily quixotic  attitude  of  chivalry. 

Lawrence  was  seduced  into  becoming  a secret  agent  in  Arabia  because  of 
his  strong  desire  to  leave  the  world  of  dull  respectability  whose  continuity 
had  become  simply  meaningless,  because  of  his  disgust  with  the  world  as  well 
as  with  himself.  What  attracted  him  most  in  Arab  civilization  was  its  “gospel 
of  bareness  . . . [which]  involves  apparently  a sort  of  moral  bareness 
too,”  which  “has  refined  itself  clear  of  household  gods.”  89  What  he  tried 
to  avoid  most  of  all  after  he  had  returned  to  English  civilization  was  living 
a life  of  his  own,  so  that  he  ended  with  an  apparently  incomprehensible  en- 
listment as  a private  in  the  British  army,  which  obviously  was  the  only  in- 
stitution in  which  a man’s  honor  could  be  identified  with  the  loss  of  his 
individual  personality. 

When  the  outbreak  of  the  first  World  War  sent  T.  E.  Lawrence  to  the 
Arabs  of  the  Near  East  with  the  assignment  to  rouse  them  into  a rebellion 
against  their  Turkish  masters  and  make  them  fight  on  the  British  side,  he 

8bT.  E.  Lawrence,  Seven  Pillars  of  Wisdom,  Introduction  (first  edition,  1926)  which 
was  omiiicd  on  the  advice  of  George  Bernard  Shaw  from  the  later  edition.  See  T.  E. 
Lawrence,  Letters,  edited  by  David  Garnett,  New  York,  1939,  pp.  262  ff. 

89  From  a letter  written  in  1918.  Letters,  p.  244. 



came  into  the  very  midst  of  the  Great  Game.  He  could  achieve  his  purpose 
only  if  a national  movement  was  stirred  up  among  Arab  tribes,  a national 
movement  that  ultimately  was  to  serve  British  imperialism.  Lawrence  had  to 
behave  as  though  the  Arab  national  movement  were  his  prime  interest,  and 
he  did  it  so  well  that  he  came  to  believe  in  it  himself.  But  then  again  he 
did  not  belong,  he  was  ultimately  unable  “to  think  their  thought”  and  to 
“assume  their  character.”  00  Pretending  to  be  an  Arab,  he  could  only  lose 
his  “English  self”  91  and  was  fascinated  by  the  complete  secrecy  of  self- 
effacement  rather  than  fooled  by  the  obvious  justifications  of  benevolent 
rule  over  backward  peoples  that  Lord  Cromer  might  have  used.  One  genera- 
tion older  and  sadder  than  Cromer,  he  took  great  delight  in  a role  that  de- 
manded a reconditioning  of  his  whole  personality  until  he  fitted  into  the 
Great  Game,  until  he  became  the  incarnation  of  the  force  of  the  Arab  na- 
tional movement,  until  he  lost  all  natural  vanity  in  his  mysterious  alliance 
with  forces  necessarily  bigger  than  himself,  no  matter  how  big  he  could  have 
been,  until  he  acquired  a deadly  “contempt,  not  for  other  men,  but  for  all 
they  do”  on  their  own  initiative  and  not  in  alliance  with  the  forces  of  history. 

When,  at  the  end  of  the  war,  Lawrence  had  to  abandon  the  pretenses  of 
a secret  agent  and  somehow  recover  his  “English  self,”  92  he  “looked  at  the 
West  and  its  conventions  with  new  eyes:  they  destroyed  it  all  for  me.”  93 
From  the  Great  Game  of  incalculable  bigness,  which  no  publicity  had 
glorified  or  limited  and  which  had  elevated  him,  in  his  twenties,  above  kings 
and  prime  ministers  because  he  had  “made  ’em  or  played  with  them,”  94 
Lawrence  came  home  with  an  obsessive  desire  for  anonymity  and  the  deep 
conviction  that  nothing  he  could  possibly  still  do  with  his  life  would  ever 
satisfy  him.  This  conclusion  he  drew  from  his  perfect  knowledge  that  it  was 
not  he  who  had  been  big,  but  only  the  role  he  had  aptly  assumed,  that  his 
bigness  had  been  the  result  of  the  Game  and  not  a product  of  himself.  Now 
he  did  not  “want  to  be  big  any  more”  and,  determined  that  he  was  not 
“going  to  be  respectable  again,”  he  thus  was  indeed  “cured  ...  of  any 
desire  ever  to  do  anything  for  myself.”  05  He  had  been  the  phantom  of  a 
force,  and  he  became  a phantom  among  the  living  when  the  force,  the 
function,  was  taken  away  from  him.  What  he  was  frantically  looking  for  was 
another  role  to  play,  and  this  incidentally  was  the  “game”  about  which 

00  T.  E.  Lawrence,  Seven  Pillars  of  Wisdom,  Garden  City,  1938,  chapter  i. 

91  Ibid . 

92  How  ambiguous  and  how  difficult  a process  this  must  have  been  is  illustrated  by 
the  following  anecdote:  “Lawrence  had  accepted  an  invitation  to  dinner  at  Claridge’s 
and  a party  afterwards  at  Mrs.  Harry  Lindsay’s.  He  shirked  the  dinner,  but  came  to 
the  party  in  Arab  dresses.”  This  happened  in  1919.  Letters,  p.  272,  note  1. 

93  Lawrence,  op.  cit.,  ch.  i. 

04  Lawrence  wrote  in  1929:  “Anyone  who  had  gone  up  so  fast  as  I went  . . . and 
had  seen  so  much  of  the  inside  of  the  top  of  the  world  might  well  lose  his  aspirations, 
and  get  weary  of  the  ordinary  motives  of  action,  which  had  moved  him  till  he  reached 
the  top.  I wasn’t  King  or  Prime  Minister,  but  I made  ’em,  or  played  with  them,  and 
after  that  there  wasn’t  much  more,  in  that  direction,  for  me  to  do”  ( Letters , p.  653). 

95  Ibid.,  pp.  244,  447,  450.  Compare  especially  the  letter  of  1918  (p.  244)  with  the 
two  letters  to  George  Bernard  Shaw  of  1923  (p.  447)  and  1928  (p.  616). 



George  Bernard  Shaw  inquired  so  kindly  but  uncomprehendingly,  as  though 
he  spoke  from  another  century,  not  understanding  why  a man  of  such  great 
•chic\emcnis  should  not  own  up  to  them.9*  Only  another  role,  another 
function  would  be  strong  enough  to  prevent  himself  and  the  world  from 
idcntif)ing  him  with  his  deeds  in  Arabia,  from  replacing  his  old  self  with 
a new  personality.  He  did  not  want  to  become  “Lawrence  of  Arabia,  since, 
fundamentally,  he  did  not  want  to  regain  a new  self  after  having  lost  the  old. 
His  greatness  was  that  he  was  passionate  enough  to  refuse  cheap  compro- 
mises and  easy  roads  into  reality  and  respectability,  that  he  never  lost  his 
awareness  that  he  had  been  only  a function  and  had  played  a role  and  there- 
fore “must  not  benefit  in  any  way  from  what  he  had  done  in  Arabia.  The 
honors  which  he  had  won  were  refused.  The  jobs  offered  on  account  of  his 
reputation  had  to  be  declined  nor  would  he  allow  himself  to  exploit  his  suc- 
cess by  profiting  from  writing  a single  paid  piece  of  journalism  under  the 
name  of  Lawrence.”  97 

The  story  of  T.  E.  Lawrence  in  all  its  moving  bitterness  and  greatness 
was  not  simply  the  story  of  a paid  official  or  a hired  spy,  but  precisely  the 
story  of  a real  agent  or  functionary,  of  somebody  who  actually  believed  he 
had  entered — or  been  driven  into — the  stream  of  historical  necessity  and 
become  a functionary  or  agent  of  the  secret  forces  which  rule  the  world. 
“I  had  pushed  my  go-cart  into  the  eternal  stream,  and  so  it  went  faster  than 
the  ones  that  arc  pushed  cross-stream  or  up-stream.  I did  not  believe  finally 
in  the  Arab  movement:  but  thought  it  necessary  in  its  time  and  place.”  98 
Just  as  Cromer  had  ruled  Egypt  for  the  sake  of  India,  or  Rhodes  South 
Africa  for  the  sake  of  further  expansion,  Lawrence  had  acted  for  some 
ulterior  unpredictable  purpose.  The  only  satisfaction  he  could  get  out  of 
this,  lacking  the  calm  good  conscience  of  some  limited  achievement,  came 
from  the  sense  of  functioning  itself,  from  being  embraced  and  driven  by 
some  big  movement.  Back  in  London  and  in  despair,  he  would  try  to  find 
some  substitute  for  this  kind  of  “self-satisfaction”  and  would  “only  get  it 
out  of  hot  speed  on  a motor-bike.”  99  Although  Lawrence  had  not  yet  been 
seized  by  the  fanaticism  of  an  ideology  of  movement,  probably  because  he 
was  too  well  educated  for  the  superstitions  of  his  time,  he  had  already  ex- 
perienced that  fascination,  based  on  despair  of  all  possible  human  responsi- 
bility, which  the  eternal  stream  and  its  eternal  movement  exert.  He  drowned 
himself  in  it  and  nothing  was  left  of  him  but  some  inexplicable  decency  and 
a pride  in  having  “pushed  the  right  way.”  “I  am  still  puzzled  as  to  how  far 
the  individual  counts:  a lot,  I fancy,  if  he  pushes  the  right  way.”  100  This, 
then,  is  the  end  of  the  real  pride  of  Western  man  who  no  longer  counts  as 
an  end  in  himself,  no  longer  does  “a  thing  of  himself  nor  a thing  so  clean 

George  Bernard  Shaw,  asking  Lawrence  in  1928  “What  is  your  game  really?”, 
suggested  that  his  role  in  the  army  or  his  looking  for  a job  as  a night-watchman  (for 
which  he  could  “get  good  references”)  were  not  authentic. 

07  Garnett,  op . cit.,  p.  264.  bo  ibid.,  in  1924,  p.  456. 

88  Letters,  in  1930,  p.  693.  ioo  ibid.,  p.  693. 



as  to  be  his  own”  101  by  giving  laws  to  the  world,  but  has  a chance  only  “if 
he  pushes  the  right  way,”  in  alliance  with  the  secret  forces  of  history  and 
necessity — of  which  he  is  but  a function. 

When  the  European  mob  discovered  what  a “lovely  virtue”  a white  skin 
could  be  in  Africa,102  when  the  English  conqueror  in  India  became  an  ad- 
ministrator who  no  longer  believed  in  the  universal  validity  of  law,  but  was 
convinced  of  his  own  innate  capacity  to  rule  and  dominate,  when  the  dragon- 
slayers  turned  into  either  “white  men”  of  “higher  breeds”  or  into  bureau- 
crats and  spies,  playing  the  Great  Game  of  endless  ulterior  motives  in  an 
endless  movement;  when  the  British  Intelligence  Services  (especially  after  the 
first  World  War)  began  to  attract  England’s  best  sons,  who  preferred  serv- 
ing mysterious  forces  all  over  the  world  to  serving  the  common  good  of 
their  country,  the  stage  seemed  to  be  set  for  all  possible  horrors.  Lying  under 
anybody’s  nose  were  many  of  the  elements  which  gathered  together  could 
create  a totalitarian  government  on  the  basis  of  racism.  “Administrative  mas- 
sacres” were  proposed  by  Indian  bureaucrats  while  African  officials  declared 
that  “no  ethical  considerations  such  as  the  rights  of  man  will  be  allowed 
to  stand  in  the  way”  of  white  rule.103 

The  happy  fact  is  that  although  British  imperialist  rule  sank  to  some  level 
of  vulgarity,  cruelty  played  a lesser  role  between  the  two  World  Wars  than 
ever  before  and  a minimum  of  human  rights  was  always  safeguarded.  It  is 
this  moderation  in  the  midst  of  plain  insanity  that  paved  the  way  for  what 
Churchill  has  called  “the  liquidation  of  His  Majesty’s  Empire”  and  that 
eventually  may  turn  out  to  mean  the  transformation  of  the  English  nation 
into  a Commonwealth  of  English  peoples. 

101  Lawrence,  op.  cit.,  chapter  i. 

102  Millin,  op.  cit.,  p.  15. 

103  As  put  by  Sir  Thomas  Watt,  a citizen  of  South  Africa,  of  British  descent.  See 
Barnes,  op.  cit.,  p.  230. 

, „a,tkk  eight:  Continental  imperialism: 
the  Pan- Movements 

azism  AND  BOLSHEVISM  owe  more  to  Pan-Germanism  and  Pan-Slavism 

IN  (respectively)  than  to  any  other  ideology  or  political  movement.  This 
is  most  evident  in  foreign  policies,  where  the  strategies  of  Nazi  Germany 
and  Soviet  Russia  have  followed  so  closely  the  well-known  programs  of 
conquest  outlined  by  the  pan-movements  before  and  during  the  first  World 
War  that  totalitarian  aims  have  frequently  been  mistaken  for  the  pursuance 
of  some  permanent  German  or  Russian  interests.  While  neither  Hitler  nor 
Stalin  has  ever  acknowledged  his  debt  to  imperialism  in  the  development 
of  his  methods  of  rule,  neither  has  hesitated  to  admit  his  indebtedness  to 
the  pan-movements’  ideology  or  to  imitate  their  slogans.1 

The  birth  of  the  pan-movements  did  not  coincide  with  the  birth  of  im- 
perialism; around  1870,  Pan-Slavism  had  already  outgrown  the  vague  and 
confused  theories  of  the  Slavophiles,2  and  Pan-German  sentiment  was  cur- 
rent in  Austria  as  early  as  the  middle  of  the  nineteenth  century.  They  crys- 
tallized into  movements,  however,  and  captured  the  imagination  of  broader 
strata  only  with  the  triumphant  imperialist  expansion  of  the  Western  nations 
in  the  eighties.  The  Central  and  Eastern  European  nations,  which  had  no 
colonial  possessions  and  little  hope  for  overseas  expansion,  now  decided 
that  they  “had  the  same  right  to  expand  as  other  great  peoples  and  that  if 
[they  were]  not  granted  this  possibility  overseas,  [they  would]  be  forced 

1 Hitler  wrote  in  Mein  Kampj  (New  York,  1939):  In  Vienna,  “I  laid  the  founda- 
tions for  a world  concept  in  general  and  a way  of  political  thinking  in  particular 
which  1 had  later  only  to  complete  in  detail,  but  which  never  afterward  forsook  me” 
(p.  129). — Stalin  came  back  to  Pan-Slav  slogans  during  the  last  war.  The  1945  Pan- 
Slav  Congress  in  Sofia,  which  had  been  called  by  the  victorious  Russians,  adopted 
a resolution  pronouncing  it  “not  only  an  international  political  necessity  to  declare 
Russian  its  language  of  general  communication  and  the  official  language  of  all  Slav 
countries,  but  a moral  necessity.”  (See  Aufbau,  New  York,  April  6,  1945.)  Shortly 
before,  the  Bulgarian  radio  had  broadcast  a message  by  the  Metropolitan  Stefan, 
vicar  of  the  Holy  Bulgarian  Synod,  in  which  he  called  upon  the  Russian  people  “to 
remember  their  messianic  mission”  and  prophesied  the  coming  “unity  of  the  Slav 
people.”  (Sec  Politics,  January,  1945.) 

For  an  exhaustive  presentation  and  discussion  of  the  Slavophiles  see  Alexandre 
Koyr6,  La  philosophic  et  le  probltme  national  en  Russie  au  debut  du  19e  siecle 
(Instilut  Frangais  de  Leningrad,  Bibliotheque  Vol.  X,  Paris,  1929). 



to  do  it  in  Europe.”  3 Pan-Germans  and  Pan-Slavs  agreed  that,  living  in 
“continental  states”  and  being  “continental  peoples,”  they  had  to  look  for 
colonies  on  the  continent,4  to  expand  in  geographic  continuity  from  a center 
of  power,6  that  against  “the  idea  of  England  . . . expressed  by  the  words: 
I want  to  rule  the  sea,  [stands]  the  idea  of  Russia  [expressed]  by  the  words: 
I want  to  rule  the  land,”  6 and  that  eventually  the  “tremendous  superiority 
of  the  land  to  the  sea  . . . , the  superior  significance  of  land  power  to  sea 
power  . . . would  become  apparent.7 

The  chief  importance  of  continental,  as  distinguished  from  overseas,  im- 
perialism lies  in  the  fact  that  its  concept  of  cohesive  expansion  does  not 
allow  for  any  geographic  distance  between  the  methods  and  institutions  of 
colony  and  of  nation,  so  that  it  did  not  require  boomerang  effects  in  order 
to  make  itself  and  all  its  consequences  felt  in  Europe.  Continental  imperial- 
ism truly  begins  at  home.8  If  it  shared  with  overseas  imperialism  the  contempt 
for  the  narrowness  of  the  nation-state,  it  opposed  to  it  not  so  much  economic 
arguments,  which  after  all  quite  frequently  expressed  authentic  national 
needs,  as  an  “enlarged  tribal  consciousness”  9 which  was  supposed  to  unite 
all  people  of  similar  folk  origin,  independent  of  history  and  no  matter  where 

3 Ernst  Hasse,  Deutsche  Politik.  4.  Heft.  Die  Zukunft  des  deutschen  Volkstums, 
1907,  p.  132. 

4 Ibid.,  3.  Heft.  Deutsche  Grenzpolitik , pp.  167-168.  Geopolitical  theories  of  this 
kind  were  current  among  the  Alldeutschen,  the  members  of  the  Pan-German  League. 
They  always  compared  Germany’s  geopolitical  needs  with  those  of  Russia.  Austrian 
Pan-Germans  characteristically  never  drew  such  a parallel. 

r*  The  Slavophile  writer  Danilewski,  whose  Russia  and  Europe  (1871)  became  the 
standard  work  of  Pan-Slavism,  praised  the  Russians’  “political  capacity”  because  of 
their  “tremendous  thousand-year-old  state  that  still  grows  and  whose  power  does 
not  expand  like  the  European  power  in  a colonial  way  but  remains  always  concen- 
trated around  its  nucleus,  Moscow.”  See  K.  Staehlin,  Geschichte  Russlands  von  den 
Anfdngen  bis  zur  Gegenwart , 1923-1939,  5 vols.,  IV/ 1,  274. 

6 The  quotation  is  from  J.  Slowacki,  a Polish  publicist  who  wrote  in  the  forties. 
See  N.  O.  Lossky,  Three  Chapters  from  the  History  of  Polish  Messianism , Prague, 
1936,  in  International  Philosophical  Library,  II,  9. 

Pan-Slavism,  the  first  of  the  pan-isms  (see  Hoetzsch,  Russland,  Berlin,  1913,  p.  439), 
expressed  these  geopolitical  theories  almost  forty  years  before  Pan-Germanism  began 
to  “think  in  continents.”  The  contrast  between  English  sea  power  and  continental  land 
power  was  so  conspicuous  that  it  would  be  far-fetched  to  look  for  influences. 

7 Reismann-Grone,  Ueber  see  politik  oder  Festlandspolitik? , 1905,  in  Alldeutsche 
Flugschriften,  No.  22,  p.  17. 

8 Ernst  Hasse  of  the  Pan-German  League  proposed  to  treat  certain  nationalities 
(Poles,  Czechs,  Jews,  Italians,  etc.)  in  the  same  way  as  overseas  imperialism  treated 
natives  in  non-European  continents.  See  Deutsche  Politik.  1.  Heft:  Das  Deutsche 
Reich  als  Nationalstaat,  1905,  p.  62.  This  is  the  chief  difference  between  the  Pan- 
German  League,  founded  in  1886,  and  earlier  colonial  societies  such  as  the  Central- 
Verein  fur  Handelsgeographie  (founded  in  1863).  A very  reliable  description  of  the 
activities  of  the  Pan-German  League  is  given  in  Mildred  S.  Wertheimer,  The  Pan- 
German  League,  1890-1914,  1924. 

9 Emil  Dcckert,  Panlatinismus,  Panslawismus  und  Panteutonismus  in  ihrer  Bedeutung 
fur  die  politische  Weltlage,  Frankfurt  a/M,  1914,  p.  4. 



they  happened  to  live.10  Continental  imperialism,  therefore,  started  with  a 
much  closer  atlinity  to  race  concepts,  enthusiastically  absorbed  the  tradition 
of  race-thinking,"  and  relied  very  little  on  specific  experiences.  Its  race  con- 
cepts were  completely  ideological  in  basis  and  developed  much  more  quickly 
into  a convenient  political  weapon  than  similar  theories  expressed  by  over- 
seas imperialists  which  could  always  claim  a certain  basis  in  authentic 

The  pan-movements  have  generally  been  given  scant  attention  in  the  dis- 
cussion of  imperialism.  Their  dreams  of  continental  empires  were  over- 
shadowed by  the  more  tangible  results  of  overseas  expansion,  and  their 
lack  of  interest  in  economics  12  stood  in  ridiculous  contrast  to  the  tremendous 
profits  of  early  imperialism.  Moreover,  in  a period  when  almost  everybody 
had  come  to  believe  that  politics  and  economics  were  more  or  less  the  same 
thing,  it  was  easy  to  overlook  the  similarities  as  well  as  the  significant  differ- 
ences between  the  two  brands  of  imperialism.  The  protagonists  of  the  pan- 
movements share  with  Western  imperialists  that  awareness  of  all  foreign- 
policy  issues  which  had  been  forgotten  by  the  older  ruling  groups  of  the  na- 
tion-state.13 Their  influence  on  intellectuals  was  even  more  pronounced — 
the  Russian  intelligentsia,  with  only  a few  exceptions,  was  Pan-Slavic,  and 
Pan-Germanism  started  in  Austria  almost  as  a students’  movement.14  Their 
chief  difference  from  the  more  respectable  imperialism  of  the  Western  na- 
tions was  the  lack  of  capitalist  support;  their  attempts  to  expand  were  not 

10  Pan*Germans  already  talked  before  the  first  World  War  of  the  distinction  between 
"Staatsjrenule”  people  of  Germanic  origin  who  happened  to  live  under  the  authority 
of  another  country,  and  “ Volksjremdc people  of  non-Germanic  origin  who  happened 
to  live  in  Germany.  See  Daniel  Frymann  (pseud,  for  Heinrich  Class),  Wenn  ich  dcr 
Kaiser  war.  Politische  Wahrheiten  und  Notwendigkeiten,  1912. 

When  Austria  was  incorporated  into  the  Third  Reich,  Hitler  addressed  the  German 
people  of  Austria  with  typically  Pan-German  slogans.  “Wherever  we  may  have  been 
born,”  he  told  them,  we  are  all  “the  sons  of  the  German  people.”  Hitler’s  Speeches, 
cd.  by  N.  H.  Baynes,  1942,  II,  1408. 

11  Th.  G.  Masaryk,  Zur  russischen  Geschichts - und  Religionsphilosophie  (1913), 
describes  the  “zoological  nationalism”  of  the  Slavophiles  since  Danilewski  (p.  257). 
Otto  Bonhard,  official  historian  of  the  Pan-German  League,  stated  the  close  relation- 
ship between  its  ideology  and  the  racism  of  Gobineau  and  H.  S.  Chamberlain.  See 
Gcschichte  des  alldeutschen  Verbandcs,  1920,  p.  95. 

12  An  exception  is  Friedrich  Naumann,  Central  Europe  (London,  1916),  who  wanted 
to  replace  the  many  nationalities  in  Central  Europe  with  one  united  “economic 
people  ( Wirtschaftsvolk ) under  German  leadership.  Although  his  book  was  a best- 
seller throughout  the  first  World  War,  it  influenced  only  the  Austrian  Social  Democratic 
Party,  see  Karl  Renner,  Oesterreichs  Erneuerung.  Politisch-programmatische  Aufsatze 
Vienna,  1916,  pp.  37  ff. 

I*  “At  least  before  the  war,  the  interest  of  the  great  parties  in  foreign  affairs  had 
been  completely  overshadowed  by  domestic  issues.  The  Pan-German  League’s  attitude 
is  different  and  this  is  undoubtedly  a propaganda  asset”  (Martin  Wenck,  Alldeutsche 
Taktik,  1917). 

, Se.e„^aUl  Q,n°ll^h’  Geschich,e  der  deutschnationalen  Bewegung  in  Oesleneich, 
Jena,  1926  p 90.  It  is  a fact  that  the  student  body  does  not  at  all  simply  mirror 
he  general  pol.C. cal  constellation;  on  the  contrary,  strong  Pan-German  opinions  have 
largely  originated  ,n  the  student  body  and  thence  found  their  way  into  general  politics  - 


and  could  not  be  preceded  by  export  of  superfluous  money  and  superfluous 
men,  because  Europe  did  not  offer  colonial  opportunities  for  either.  Among 
their  leaders,  we  find  therefore  almost  no  businessmen  and  few  adventurers, 
but  many  members  of  the  free  professions,  teachers,  and  civil  servants.15 

While  overseas  imperialism,  its  antinational  tendencies  notwithstanding, 
succeeded  in  giving  a new  lease  on  life  to  the  antiquated  institutions  of  the 
nation-state,  continental  imperialism  was  and  remained  unequivocally  hos- 
tile to  all  existing  political  bodies.  Its  general  mood,  therefore,  was  far  more 
rebellious  and  its  leaders  far  more  adept  at  revolutionary  rhetoric.  While 
overseas  imperialism  had  offered  real  enough  panaceas  for  the  residues  of 
all  classes,  continental  imperialism  had  nothing  to  offer  except  an  ideology 
and  a movement.  Yet  this  was  quite  enough  in  a time  which  preferred  a key 
to  history  to  political  action,  when  men  in  the  midst  of  communal  disintegra- 
tion and  social  atomization  wanted  to  belong  at  any  price.  Similarly,  the 
visible  distinction  of  a white  skin,  whose  advantages  in  a black  or  brown  en- 
vironment are  easily  understood,  could  be  matched  successfully  by  a purely 
imaginary  distinction  between  an  Eastern  and  a Western,  or  an  Aryan  and 
a non-Aryan  soul.  The  point  is  that  a rather  complicated  ideology  and  an 
organization  which  furthered  no  immediate  interest  proved  to  be  more  at- 
tractive than  tangible  advantages  and  commonplace  convictions. 

Despite  their  lack  of  success,  with  its  proverbial  appeal  to  the  mob,  the 
pan-movements  exerted  from  the  beginning  a much  stronger  attraction  than 
overseas  imperialism.  This  popular  appeal,  which  withstood  tangible  failures 
and  constant  changes  of  program,  foreshadowed  later  totalitarian  groups 
which  were  similarly  vague  as  to  actual  goals  and  subject  to  day-to-day 
changes  of  political  lines.  What  held  the  pan-movements’  membership  to- 
gether was  much  more  a general  mood  than  a clearly  defined  aim.  It  is  true 
that  overseas  imperialism  also  placed  expansion  as  such  above  any  program 
of  conquest  and  therefore  took  possession  of  every  territory  that  offered  it- 
self as  an  easy  opportunity.  Yet,  however  capricious  the  export  of  super- 
fluous money  may  have  been,  it  served  to  delimit  the  ensuing  expansion;  the 
aims  of  the  pan-movements  lacked  even  this  rather  anarchic  element  of 
human  planning  and  geographic  restraint.  Yet,  though  they  had  no  specific 
programs  for  world  conquest,  they  generated  an  all-embracing  mood  of  total 
predominance,  of  touching  and  embracing  all  human  issues,  of  “pan-human- 
ism,” as  Dostoevski  once  put  it.16 

In  the  imperialist  alliance  between  mob  and  capital,  the  initiative  lay 
mostly  with  the  representatives  of  business — except  in  the  case  of  South 
Africa,  where  a clear-cut  mob  policy  developed  very  early.  In  the  pan- 

15  Useful  information  about  the  social  composition  of  the  membership  of  the  Pan- 
German  League,  its  local  and  executive  officers,  can  be  found  in  Wertheimer,  op.  cit. 
See  also  Lothar  Werner,  Dcr  alldcutsche  Verband.  1890-1918.  Historische  Studien. 
Heft  278,  Berlin,  1935,  and  Gottfried  Nippold,  Der  deutsche  Chauvinismus,  1913,  pp. 
179  ff. 

16  Quoted  from  Hans  Kohn,  “The  Permanent  Mission”  in  The  Review  of  Politics , 
July,  1948. 



movements,  on  the  other  hand,  the  initiative  always  lay  exclusively  with 
the  mob,  which  was  led  then  (as  today)  by  a certain  brand  of  intellectuals. 
They  still  lacked  the  ambition  to  rule  the  globe,  and  they  did  not  even 
dream  of  the  possibilities  of  total  domination.  But  they  did  know  how_to_or- 
gani/e  the  mob,  and  they  were  aware  of  the  organizational,  not  merely 
ideological  or  propaganda,  uses  to  which  race  concepts  can  be  put.  Their 
significance  is  only  superficially  grasped  in  the  relatively  modest  theories  of 
foreign  policy — a Germanized  Central  Europe  or  a Russianized  Eastern 
and  Southern  Europe — which  served  as  starting  points  for  the  world-con- 
quest programs  of  Nazism  and  Bolshevism.17  The  “Germanic  peoples”  out- 
side the  Reich  and  “our  minor  Slavonic  brethren”  outside  Holy  Russia 
generated  a comfortable  smoke  screen  of  national  rights  to  self-determina- 
tion, easy  stepping-stones  to  further  expansion.  Yet,  much  more  essential 
was  the  fact  that  the  totalitarian  governments  inherited  an  aura  of  holiness: 
they  had  only  to  invoke  the  past  of  “Holy  Russia”  or  “the  Holy  Roman  Em- 
pire” to  arouse  all  kinds  of  superstitions  in  Slav  or  German  intellectuals.18 
Pseudomystical  nonsense,  enriched  by  countless  and  arbitrary  historical 
memories,  provided  an  emotional  appeal  that  seemed  to  transcend,  in  depth 
and  breadth,  the  limitations  of  nationalism.  Out  of  it,  at  any  rate,  grew  that 
new  kind  of  nationalist  feeling  whose  violence  proved  an  excellent  motor 
to  set  mob  masses  in  motion  and  quite  adequate  to  replace  the  older  na- 
tional patriotism  as  an  emotional  center. 

This  new  type  of  tribal  nationalism,  more  or  less  characteristic  of  all 
Central  and  Eastern  European  nations  and  nationalities,  was  quite  different 
in  content  and  significance — though  not  in  violence — from  Western  nation- 
alist excesses.  Chauvinism — now  usually  thought  of  in  connection  with  the 
“nationalisme  integral”  of  Maurras  and  Barres  around  the  turn  of  the  cen- 
tury, with  its  romantic  glorification  of  the  past  and  its  morbid  cult  of  the 
dead — even  in  its  most  wildly  fantastic  manifestations,  did  not  hold  that  men 
of  French  origin,  born  and  raised  in  another  country,  without  any  knowledge 
of  French  language  or  culture,  would  be  “born  Frenchmen”  thanks  to  some 
mysterious  qualities  of  body  or  soul.  Only  with  the  “enlarged  tribal  con- 
sciousness” did  that  peculiar  identification  of  nationality  with  one’s  own  soul 
emerge,  that  turned-inward  pride  that  is  no  longer  concerned  only  with 
public  affairs  but  pervades  every  phase  of  private  life  until,  for  example, 
“the  private  life  of  each  true  Pole  ...  is  a public  life  of  Polishness.”  19 

In  psychological  terms,  the  chief  difference  between  even  the  most  violent 

17  Danilewski,  op.  cit.,  included  in  a future  Russian  empire  all  Balkan  countries, 
Turkey,  Hungary,  Czechoslovakia,  Galicia,  and  Istria  with  Trieste. 

18  I he  Slavophile  K.  S.  Aksakow,  writing  in  the  middle  of  the  nineteenth  century, 
took  the  official  name  “Holy  Russia”  quite  literally,  as  did  later  Pan-Slavs.  See  Th.  G. 
Masaryk,  op.  cit.,  pp.  234  ff. — Very  characteristic  of  the  vague  nonsense  of  Pan- 
Germanism  is  Moeller  van  den  Bruck,  Germany’s  Third  Empire  (New  York,  1934), 
in  which  he  proclaims:  “There  is  only  One  Empire,  as  there  is  only  One  Church.  Any- 
thing else  that  claims  the  title  may  be  a state  or  a community  or  a sect.  There  exists 
only  The  Empire”  (p.  263). 

10  George  Cleinow,  Die  Zukunft  Polens,  Leipzig,  1914,  II,  93  ff. 



chauvinism  and  this  tribal  nationalism  is  that  the  one  is  extroverted,  con- 
cerned with  visible  spiritual  and  material  achievements  of  the  nation, 
whereas  the  other,  even  in  its  mildest  forms  (for  example,  the  German  youth 
movement)  is  introverted,  concentrates  on  the  individual’s  own  soul  which 
is  considered  as  the  embodiment  of  general  national  qualities.  Chauvinist 
mystique  still  points  to  something  that  really  existed  in  the  past  (as  in 
the  case  of  the  nationalisme  integral)  and  merely  tries  to  elevate  this  into  a 
realm  beyond  human  control;  tribalism,  on  the  other  hand,  starts  from  non- 
existent pseudomystical  elements  which  it  proposes  to  realize  fully  in  the 
future.  It  can  be  easily  recognized  by  the  tremendous  arrogance,  inherent  in 
its  self-concentration,  which  dares  to  measure  a people,  its  past  and  present, 
by  the  yardstick  of  exalted  inner  qualities  and  inevitably  rejects  its  visible 
existence,  tradition,  institutions,  and  culture. 

Politically  speaking,  tribal  nationalism  always  insists  that  its  own  people 
is  surrounded  by  “a  world  of  enemies,”  “one  against  all,”  that  a fundamental 
difference  exists  between  this  people  and  all  others.  It  claims  its  people  to  be 
unique,  individual,  incompatible  with  all  others,  and  denies  theoretically  the 
very  possibility  of  a common  mankind  long  before  it  is  used  to  destroy  the 
humanity  of  man. 

i:  Tribal  Nationalism 

just  as  continental  imperialism  sprang  from  the  frustrated  ambitions  of 
countries  which  did  not  get  their  share  in  the  sudden  expansion  of  the 
eighties,  so  tribalism  appeared  as  the  nationalism  of  those  peoples  who  had 
not  participated  in  national  emancipation  and  had  not  achieved  the  sov- 
ereignty of  a nation-state.  Wherever  the  two  frustrations  were  combined,  as 
in  multinational  Austria-Hungary  and  Russia,  the  pan-movements  naturally 
found  their  most  fertile  soil.  Moreover,  since  the  Dual  Monarchy  harbored 
both  Slavic  and  German  irredentist  nationalities,  Pan-Slavism  and  Pan-Ger- 
manism concentrated  from  the  beginning  on  its  destruction,  and  Austria- 
Hungary  became  the  real  center  of  pan-movements.  Russian  Pan-Slavs 
claimed  as  early  as  1870  that  the  best  possible  starting  point  for  a Pan-Slav 
empire  would  be  the  disintegration  of  Austria,20  and  Austrian  Pan-Germans 
were  so  violently  aggressive  against  their  own  government  that  even  the 
Alldeutsche  Verband  in  Germany  complained  frequently  about  the  “exag- 

20  During  the  Crimean  War  (1853-1856)  Michael  Pagodin,  a Russian  folklorist 
and  philologist,  wrote  a letter  to  the  Czar  in  which  he  called  the  Slav  peoples  Russia’s 
only  reliable  powerful  allies  (Staehlin,  op.  cit.,  p.  35);  shortly  thereafter  General 
Nikolai  Muravyev-Amursky,  “one  of  the  great  Russian  empire-builders,”  hoped  for 
“the  liberation  of  the  Slavs  from  Austria  and  Turkey”  (Hans  Kohn,  op.  cit.);  and  as 
early  as  1870  a military  pamphlet  appeared  which  demanded  the  “destruction  of 
Austria  as  a necessary  condition  for  a Pan-Slav  federation”  (see  Staehlin,  op.  cit.f 

p.  282). 



gerations”  of  the  Austrian  brother  movement.21  The  German-conceived 
blueprint  for  the  economic  union  of  Central  Europe  under  German  leader- 
ship, along  with  all  similar  continental-empire  projects  of  the  German  Pan- 
Germans,  changed  at  once,  when  Austrian  Pan-Germans  got  hold  of  it,  into 
a structure  that"  would  become  “the  center  of  German  life  all  over  the  earth 
and  be  allied  with  all  other  Germanic  states.”  22 

It  is  self-evident  that  the  expansionist  tendencies  of  Pan-Slavism  were 
as  embarrassing  to  the  Czar  as  the  Austrian  Pan-Germans’  unsolicited  pro- 
fessions of  loyalty  to  the  Reich  and  disloyalty  to  Austria  were  to  Bismarck.23 
For  no  matter  how  high  national  feelings  occasionally  ran,  or  how  ridiculous 
nationalistic  claims  might  become  in  times  of  emergency,  as  long  as  they 
were  bound  to  a defined  national  territory  and  controlled  by  pride  in  a limited 
nation-state  they  remained  within  limits  which  the  tribalism  of  the  pan- 
movements  overstepped  at  once. 

The  modernity  of  the  pan-movements  may  best  be  gauged  from  their  en- 
tirely new'  position  on  antisemitism.  Suppressed  minorities  like  the  Slavs  in 
Austria  and  the  Poles  in  Czarist  Russia  were  more  likely,  because  of  their 
conflict  with  the  government,  to  discover  the  hidden  connections  between 
the  Jewish  communities  and  the  European  nation-states,  and  this  discovery 
could  easily  lead  to  more  fundamental  hostility.  Wherever  antagonism  to  the 
state  was  not  identified  with  lack  of  patriotism,  as  in  Poland,  where  it  was 
a sign  of  Polish  loyalty  to  be  disloyal  to  the  Czar,  or  in  Austria,  where  Ger- 
mans looked  upon  Bismarck  as  their  great  national  figure,  this  antisemitism 
assumed  more  violent  forms  because  the  Jews  then  appeared  as  agents  not 
only  of  an  oppressive  state  machine  but  of  a foreign  oppressor.  But  the 
fundamental  role  of  antisemitism  in  the  pan-movements  is  explained  as  little 
by  the  position  of  minorities  as  by  the  specific  experiences  which  Schoenerer, 
the  protagonist  of  Austrian  Pan-Germanism,  had  had  in  his  earlier  career 
when,  still  a member  of  the  Liberal  Party,  he  became  aw’are  of  the  connec- 
tions between  the  Hapsburg  monarchy  and  the  Rothschilds’  domination  of 
Austria's  railroad  system.24  This  by  itself  would  hardly  have  made  him  an- 
nounce that  “we  Pan-Germans  regard  antisemitism  as  the  mainstay  of  our 

21  See  Olio  Bonhard,  op.  ci/.,  pp.  58  fL,  and  Hugo  Grell,  Der  alldeutsche  Verband, 
seine  Geschichte,  seine  Bestrebungcn , seine  Erjolge , 1898,  in  Alldeutsche  Flugschriften, 
No.  8. 

22  According  to  the  Austrian  Pan-German  program  of  1913,  quoted  from  Eduard 
Pichl  (al.  Herwig),  Georg  Schoenerer,  1938,  6 vols.,  VI,  375. 

23  When  Schoenerer,  with  his  admiration  for  Bismarck,  declared  in  1876  that 
“Austria  as  a great  power  must  cease”  (Pichl,  op.  cit.,  I,  90).  Bismarck  thought  and 
told  his  Austrian  admirers  that  “a  powerful  Austria  is  a vital  necessity  to  Germany.” 
See  F.  A.  Neuschaefcr.  Georg  Ritter  von  Schoenerer  (Dissertation),  Hamburg,  1935. 
The  Czars  atlitude  toward  Pan-Slavism  was  much  more  equivocal  because  the  Pan- 
Slav  conception  of  the  slate  included  strong  popular  support  for  despotic  government. 
^ ct  even  under  such  tempting  circumstances,  the  Czar  refused  to  support  the  expan- 
sionist demand  of  the  Slavophiles  and  their  successors.  See  Staehlin,  op.  cit.,  pp.  30  ff. 

21  See  chapter  ii. 



national  ideology,’’ 25  nor  could  anything  similar  have  induced  the  Pan-Slav 
Russian  writer  Rozanov  to  pretend  that  “there  is  no  problem  in  Russian  life 
in  which  like  a ‘comma’  there  is  not  also  the  question:  How  to  cope  with 
the  Jew.’’20 

The  clue  to  the  sudden  emergence  of  antisemitism  as  the  center  of  a whole 
outlook  on  life  and  the  world — as  distinguished  from  its  mere  political  role 
in  France  during  the  Dreyfus  Affair  or  its  role  as  an  instrument  of  propa- 
ganda in  the  German  Stoecker  movement — lies  in  the  nature  of  tribalism 
rather  than  in  political  facts  and  circumstances.  The  true  significance  of  the 
pan-movements’  antisemitism  is  that  hatred  of  the  Jews  was,  for  the  first 
time,  severed  from  all  actual  experience  concerning  the  Jewish  people,  polit- 
ical, social,  or  economic,  and  followed  only  the  peculiar  logic  of  an  ideology. 

Tribal  nationalism,  the  driving  force  behind  continental  imperialism,  had 
little  in  common  with  the  nationalism  of  the  fully  developed  Western  nation- 
state. The  nation-state,  with  its  claim  to  popular  representation  and  national 
sovereignty,  as  it  had  developed  since  the  French  Revolution  through  the 
nineteenth  century,  was  the  result  of  a combination  of  two  factors  that  were 
still  separate  in  the  eighteenth  century’  and  remained  separate  in  Russia  and 
Austria-Hungary:  nationality  and  state.  Nations  entered  the  scene  of  history 
and  were  emancipated  when  peoples  had  acquired  a consciousness  of  them- 
selves as  cultural  and  historical  entities,  and  of  their  territory  as  a permanent 
home,  where  history  had  left  its  visible  traces,  whose  cultivation  was  the 
product  of  the  common  labor  of  their  ancestors  and  whose  future  would  de- 
pend upon  the  course  of  a common  civilization.  Wherever  nation-states 
came  into  being,  migrations  came  to  an  end.  while,  on  the  other  hand,  in  the 
Eastern  and  Southern  European  regions  the  establishment  of  nation-states 
failed  because  they  could  not  fall  back  upon  firmly  rooted  peasant  classes.27 
Sociologically  the  nation-state  was  the  body  politic  of  the  European  emanci- 
pated peasant  classes,  and  this  is  the  reason  why  national  armies  could  keep 
their  permanent  position  within  these  states  only  up  to  the  end  of  the  last 
century,  that  is,  only  as  long  as  they  were  truly  representative  of  the  rural 
class.  “The  Army,”  as  Marx  has  pointed  out,  “was  the  ‘point  of  honor’  with 
the  allotment  farmers:  it  was  themselves  turned  into  masters,  defending 
abroad  their  newly  established  property.  . . . The  uniform  was  their  state 
costume,  war  was  their  poetry;  the  allotment  was  the  fatherland,  and  patriot- 
ism became  the  ideal  form  of  property.”2''  The  Western  nationalism  which 

25  Pichl,  op.  cit.,  I,  26.  The  translation  is  quoted  from  the  excellent  article  by  Oscar 
Karbach.  ‘'The  Founder  of  Modern  Political  Antisemitism:  Georg  von  Schoenerer," 
in  Jewish  Social  Studies,  Vol.  VII,  No  1,  January,  1945. 

26  Vassiliff  Rozanov,  Fallen  Leaves,  1929,  pp.  163-164. 

27  See  C.  A.  Macartney,  National  States  and  National  Minorities,  London,  1934, 
pp.  432  ff. 

28  Karl  Marx,  The  Eighteenth  Brumaire  of  Louis  Bonaparte  English  translation  by 
De  Leon,  1898. 



culminated  in  general  conscription  was  the  product  of  firmly  rooted  and 
emancipated  peasant  classes. 

While  consciousness  of  nationality  is  a comparatively  recent  development, 
the  structure  of  the  state  was  derived  from  centuries  of  monarchy  and  en- 
lightened despotism.  Whether  in  the  form  of  a new  republic  or  of  a reformed 
constitutional  monarchy,  the  state  inherited  as  its  supreme  function  the  pro- 
tection of  all  inhabitants  in  its  territory  no  matter  what  their  nationality,  and 
was  supposed  to  act  as  a supreme  legal  institution.  The  tragedy  of  the  nation- 
state was  that  the  people’s  rising  national  consciousness  interfered  with  these 
functions.  In  the  name  of  the  will  of  the  people  the  state  was  forced  to 
recognize  only  “nationals”  as  citizens,  to  grant  full  civil  and  political  rights 
only  to  those  who  belonged  to  the  national  community  by  right  of  origin  and 
fact  of  birth.  This  meant  that  the  state  was  partly  transformed  from  an  in- 
strument of  the  law  into  an  instrument  of  the  nation. 

The  conquest  of  the  state  by  the  nation  29  was  greatly  facilitated  by  the 
downfall  of  the  absolute  monarchy  and  the  subsequent  new  development  of 
classes.  The  absolute  monarch  was  supposed  to  serve  the  interests  of  the 
nation  as  a whole,  to  be  the  visible  exponent  and  proof  of  the  existence  of 
such  a common  interest.  The  enlightened  despotism  was  based  on  Rohan’s 
“kings  command  the  peoples  and  interest  commands  the  king”;30  with  the 
abolition  of  the  king  and  sovereignty  of  the  people,  this  common  interest  was 
in  constant  danger  of  being  replaced  by  a permanent  conflict  among  class  in- 
terests and  struggle  for  control  of  the  state  machinery,  that  is,  by  a permanent 
civil  war.  The  only  remaining  bond  between  the  citizens  of  a nation-state 
without  a monarch  to  symbolize  their  essential  community,  seemed  to  be 
national,  that  is,  common  origin.  So  that  in  a century  when  every  class  and 
section  in  the  population  was  dominated  by  class  or  group  interest,  the  inter- 
est of  the  nation  as  a whole  was  supposedly  guaranteed  in  a common  origin, 
which  sentimentally  expressed  itself  in  nationalism. 

The  secret  conflict  between  state  and  nation  came  to  light  at  the  very  birth 
of  the  modern  nation-state,  when  the  French  Revolution  combined  the  decla- 
ration of  the  Rights  of  Man  with  the  demand  for  national  sovereignty.  The 
same  essential  rights  were  at  once  claimed  as  the  inalienable  heritage  of  all 
human  beings  and  as  the  specific  heritage  of  specific  nations,  the  same  nation 
was  at  once  declared  to  be  subject  to  laws,  which  supposedly  would  flow 
from  the  Rights  of  Man,  and  sovereign,  that  is,  bound  by  no  universal  law 
and  acknowledging  nothing  superior  to  itself.31  The  practical  outcome  of  this 
contradiction  was  that  from  then  on  human  rights  were  protected  and  en- 
forced omy  as  national  rights  and  that  the  very  institution  of  a state,  whose 
supreme  task  was  to  protect  and  guarantee  man  his  rights  as  man,  as  citizen 

2)  See  J.  T.  Delos,  La  Nation,  Montreal,  1944,  an  outstanding  study  on  the  subject. 

30  See  ihc  Due  de  Rohan,  De  ITnleret  des  Princes  et  Etats  de  la  Chretiente,  1638, 
dedicated  lo  the  Cardinal  Richelieu. 

31  One  of  the  mosL  illuminating  discussions  of  the  principle  of  sovereignty  is  still 
Jean  Bodin,  Six  Livres  de  la  Republique,  1576.  For  a good  report  and  discussion  of 
Bodin’s  main  theories,  see  George  H.  Sabine,  A History  of  Political  Theory,  1937. 



and  as  national,  lost  its  legal,  rational  appearance  and  could  be  interpreted 
by  the  romantics  as  the  nebulous  representative  of  a ‘‘national  soul”  which 
through  the  very  fact  of  its  existence  was  supposed  to  be  beyond  or  above 
the  law.  National  sovereignty,  accordingly,  lost  its  original  connotation  of 
freedom  of  the  people  and  was  being  surrounded  by  a pseudomystical  aura  of 
lawless  arbitrariness. 

Nationalism  is  essentially  the  expression  of  this  perversion  of  the  state 
into  an  instrument  of  the  nation  and  the  identification  of  the  citizen  with  the 
member  of  the  nation.  The  relationship  between  state  and  society  was  de- 
termined by  the  fact  of  class  struggle,  which  had  supplanted  the  former 
feudal  order.  Society  was  pervaded  by  liberal  individualism  which  wrongly 
believed  that  the  state  ruled  over  mere  individuals,  when  in  reality  it  ruled 
over  classes,  and  which  saw  in  the  state  a kind  of  supreme  individual  before 
which  all  others  had  to  bow.  It  seemed  to  be  the  will  of  the  nation  that  the 
state  protect  it  from  the  consequences  of  its  social  atomization  and,  at  the 
same  time,  guarantee  its  possibility  of  remaining  in  a state  of  atomization.  To 
be  equal  to  this  task,  the  state  had  to  enforce  all  earlier  tendencies  toward 
centralization;  only  a strongly  centralized  administration  which  monopolized 
all  instruments  of  violence  and  power-possibilities  could  counterbalance  the 
centrifugal  forces  constantly  produced  in  a class-ridden  society.  Nationalism, 
then,  became  the  precious  cement  for  binding  together  a centralized  state 
and  an  atomized  society,  and  it  actually  proved  to  be  the  only  working,  live 
connection  between  the  individuals  of  the  nation-state. 

Nationalism  always  preserved  this  initial  intimate  loyalty  to  the  govern- 
ment and  never  quite  lost  its  function  of  preserving  a precarious  balance 
between  nation  and  state  on  one  hand,  between  the  nationals  of  an  atomized 
society  on  the  other.  Native  citizens  of  a nation-state  frequently  looked  down 
upon  naturalized  citizens,  those  who  had  received  their  rights  by  law  and  not 
by  birth,  from  the  state  and  not  from  the  nation;  but  they  never  went  so 
far  as  to  propose  the  Pan-German  distinction  between  “Staatsfremde” 
aliens  of  the  state,  and  “ Volksfremde  ” aliens  of  the  nation,  which  was 
later  incorporated  into  Nazi  legislation.  Insofar  as  the  state,  even  in  its  per- 
verted form,  remained  a legal  institution,  nationalism  was  controlled  by  some 
law,  and  insofar  as  it  had  sprung  from  the  identification  of  nationals  with 
their  territory,  it  was  limited  by  definite  boundaries. 

Quite  different  was  the  first  national  reaction  of  peoples  for  whom  nation- 
ality had  not  yet  developed  beyond  the  inarticulateness  of  ethnic  conscious- 
ness, whose  languages  had  not  yet  outgrown  the  dialect  stage  through  which 
all  European  languages  went  before  they  became  suited  for  literary  purposes, 
whose  peasant  classes  had  not  struck  deep  roots  in  the  country  and  were  not 
on  the  verge  of  emancipation,  and  to  whom,  consequently,  their  national 
quality  appeared  to  be  much  more  a portable  private  matter,  inherent  in 
their  very  personality,  than  a matter  of  public  concern  and  civilization.3-  If 

32  Interesting  in  this  context  are  the  socialist  propositions  of  Karl  Renner  and  Otto 
Bauer  in  Austria  to  separate  nationality  entirely  from  its  territorial  basis  and  to  make 
it  a kind  of  personal  status;  this  of  course  corresponded  to  a situation  in  which  ethnic 



they  wanted  to  match  the  national  pride  of  Western  nations,  they  had  no 
country,  no  state,  no  historic  achievement  to  show  but  could  only  point  to 
themselves,  and  that  meant,  at  best,  to  their  language— as  though  language 
by  itself  were  already  an  achievement — at  worst,  to  their  Slavic,  or  Ger- 
manic, or  God-knows-what  soul.  Yet  in  a century  which  naively  assumed 
that  all  peoples  were  virtually  nations  there  was  hardly  anything  else  left 
to  the  oppressed  peoples  of  Austria-Hungary,  Czarist  Russia,  or  the  Balkan 
countries,  where  no  conditions  existed  for  the  realization  of  the  Western 
national  trinity  of  peoplc-territory-statc,  where  frontiers  had  changed  con- 
stantly for  many  centuries  and  populations  had  been  in  a stage  of  more  or 
less  continuous  migration.  Here  were  masses  who  had  not  the  slightest  idea 
of  the  meaning  of  patria  and  patriotism,  not  the  vaguest  notion  of  responsi- 
bility for  a common,  limited  community.  This  was  the  trouble  with  the  “belt 
of  mixed  populations”  (Macartney)  that  stretched  from  the  Baltic  to  the 
Adriatic  and  found  its  most  articulate  expression  in  the  Dual  Monarchy. 

Tribal  nationalism  grew  out  of  this  atmosphere  of  rootlessness.  It  spread 
widely  not  only  among  the  peoples  of  Austria-Hungary  but  also,  though  on 
a higher  level,  among  members  of  the  unhappy  intelligentsia  of  Czarist  Rus- 
sia. Rootlessncss  was  the  true  source  of  that  “enlarged  tribal  consciousness” 
which  actually  meant  that  members  of  these  peoples  had  no  definite  home 
but  felt  at  home  wherever  other  members  of  their  “tribe”  happened  to 
live.  “It  is  our  distinction,”  said  Schoenerer,  . . that  we  do  not  gravi- 
tate toward  Vienna  but  gravitate  to  whatever  place  Germans  may  live  in.”  33 
The  hallmark  of  the  pan-movements  was  that  they  never  even  tried  to 
achieve  national  emancipation,  but  at  once,  in  their  dreams  of  expansion, 
transcended  the  narrow  bounds  of  a national  community  and  proclaimed  a 
folk  community  that  would  remain  a political  factor  even  if  its  members 
were  dispersed  all  over  the  earth.  Similarly,  and  in  contrast  to  the  true  na- 
tional liberation  movements  of  small  peoples,  which  always  began  with  an 
exploration  of  the  national  past,  they  did  not  stop  to  consider  history  but 
projected  the  basis  of  their  community  into  a future  toward  which  the  move- 
ment was  supposed  to  march. 

Tribal  nationalism,  spreading  through  all  oppressed  nationalities  in  East- 
ern and  Southern  Europe,  developed  into  a new  form  of  organization,  the 
pan-movements,  among  those  peoples  who  combined  some  kind  of  national 
home  country,  Germany  and  Russia,  with  a large,  dispersed  irredenta,  Ger- 
mans and  Slavs  abroad.34  In  contrast  to  overseas  imperialism,  which  was 

groups  were  dispersed  all  over  the  empire  without  losing  any  of  their  national  char- 
acter. oee  Otto  Bauer,  Die  Nationalitdtenjrage  iind  die  dsterreichische  Sozialdemo- 
kraiie,  Vienna,  1907,  on  the  personal  (as  opposed  to  the  territorial)  principle,  pp. 
332  IT.,  353  ff.  “The  personal  principle  wants  to  organize  nations  not  as  territorial 
bodies  but  as  mere  associations  of  persons.” 

33  Pichl,  op.  cit.,  I,  152. 

No  full-fledged  pan-movement  ever  developed  except  under  these  conditions. 
Pan  1 atinism  was  a misnomer  for  a few  abortive  attempts  of  the  Latin  nations  to 
make  some  kind  of  alliance  against  the  German  danger,  and  even  Polish  Messianism 
never  claimed  more  than  what  at  some  time  might  conceivably  have  been  Polish- 



content  with  relative  superiority,  a national  mission,  or  a white  man’s  burden, 
the  pan-movements  started  with  absolute  claims  to  choscnness.  Nationalism 
has  been  frequently  described  as  an  emotional  surrogate  of  religion,  but  only 
the  tribalism  of  the  pan-movements  offered  a new  religious  theory  and  a new 
concept  of  holiness.  It  was  not  the  Czar’s  religious  function  and  position  in 
the  Greek  Church  that  led  Russian  Pan-Slavs  to  the  affirmation  of  the  Chris- 
tian nature  of  the  Russian  people,  of  their  being,  according  to  Dostoevski, 
the  “Christopher  among  the  nations”  who  carry  God  directly  into  the  affairs 
of  this  world.88  It  was  because  of  claims  to  being  “the  true  divine  people  of 
modern  times”  36  that  the  Pan-Slavs  abandoned  their  earlier  liberal  tenden- 
cies and,  notwithstanding  governmental  opposition  and  occasionally  even 
persecution,  became  staunch  defenders  of  Holy  Russia. 

Austrian  Pan-Germans  laid  similar  claims  to  divine  chosenness  even 
though  they,  with  a similar  liberal  past,  remained  anticlerical  and  became 
anti-Christians.  When  Hitler,  a self-confessed  disciple  of  Schoenerer,  stated 
during  the  last  war:  “God  the  Almighty  has  made  our  nation.  We  are  defend- 
ing His  work  by  defending  its  very  existence,”  37  the  reply  from  the  other 
side,  from  a follower  of  Pan-Slavism,  was  equally  true  to  type:  “The  German 
monsters  are  not  only  our  foes,  but  God's  foes.”  38  These  recent  formulations 
were  not  born  of  propaganda  needs  of  the  moment,  and  this  kind  of  fanati- 
cism does  not  simply  abuse  religious  language;  behind  it  lies  a veritable 
theology  which  gave  the  earlier  pan-movements  their  momentum  and  re- 
tained a considerable  influence  on  the  development  of  modern  totalitarian 

The  pan-movements  preached  the  divine  origin  of  their  own  people  as 
against  the  Jewish-Christian  faith  in  the  divine  origin  of  Man.  According  to 
them,  man,  belonging  inevitably  to  some  people,  received  his  divine  origin 
only  indirectly  through  membership  in  a people.  The  individual,  therefore, 
has  his  divine  value  only  as  long  as  he  belongs  to  the  people  singled  out 
for  divine  origin.  He  forfeits  this  whenever  he  decides  to  change  his  nation- 
ality, in  which  case  he  severs  all  bonds  through  which  he  was  endowed  with 

dominated  territory.  See  also  Deckert,  op . cit.,  who  stated  in  1914:  “that  Pan-Latinism 
has  declined  more  and  more,  and  that  nationalism  and  state  consciousness  have  be- 
come stronger  and  retained  a greater  potential  there  than  anywhere  else  in  Europe” 
(P.  7). 

35  Nicolas  Berdyaev,  The  Origin  of  Russian  Communism,  1937,  p.  102. — K.  S. 
Aksakow  called  the  Russian  people  the  “only  Christian  people  on  earth”  in  1855  (see 
Hans  Ehrenbcrg  and  N.  V.  BubnofF,  OestJiches  Christcntum,  Bd.  I,  pp.  92  ff.),  and  the 
poet  Tyutchev  asserted  at  the  same  time  that  “the  Russian  people  is  Christian  not 
only  through  the  Orthodoxy  of  its  faith  but  by  something  more  intimate.  It  is  Christian 
by  that  faculty  of  renunciation  and  sacrifice  which  is  the  foundation  of  its  moral 
nature.”  Quoted  from  Hans  Kohn,  op.  eit. 

36  According  to  Chaadayev  whose  Philosophical  Letters.  IS29-1831  constituted  the 
first  systematic  attempt  to  see  world  history  centered  around  the  Russian  people.  See 
Ehrenbcrg,  op.  cit.,  I,  5 ff. 

37  Speech  of  January  30,  1945,  as  recorded  in  the  New  York  Times,  January  31. 

38  The  words  of  Luke,  the  Archbishop  of  Tambov,  as  quoted  in  The  Journal  of 
the  Moscow  Patriarchate,  No.  2,  1944. 



di\  inc  origin  and  falls,  as  it  were,  into  metaphysical  homelessness.  The  polit- 
ical advantage  of  this  concept  was  twofold.  It  made  nationality  a permanent 
quality  which  no  longer  could  be  touched  by  history,  no  matter  what  hap- 
pened to  a given  people — emigration,  conquest,  dispersion.  Of  even  more 
immediate  impact,  however,  was  that  in  the  absolute  contrast  between  the 
divine  origin  of  one’s  own  people  and  all  other  nondivine  peoples  all  differ- 
ences between  the  individual  members  of  the  people  disappeared,  whether 
social  or  economic  or  psychological.  Divine  origin  changed  the  people  into 
a uniform  “chosen”  mass  of  arrogant  robots.39 

The  untruth  of  this  theory  is  as  conspicuous  as  its  political  usefulness. 
God  created  neither  men — whose  origin  clearly  is  procreation — nor  peoples 
— who  came  into  being  as  the  result  of  human  organization.  Men  are  unequal 
according  to  their  natural  origin,  their  different  organization,  and  fate  in  his- 
tory Their  equality  is  an  equality  of  rights  only,  that  is,  an  equality  of  human 
purpose;  yet  behind  this  equality  of  human  purpose  lies,  according  to  Jew- 
ish-Christian  tradition,  another  equality,  expressed  in  the  concept  of  one 
common  origin  beyond  human  history,  human  nature,  and  human  purpose 
— the  common  origin  in  the  mythical,  unidentifiable  Man  who  alone  is  God’s 
creation.  This  divine  origin  is  the  metaphysical  concept  on  which  the  polit- 
ical equality  of  purpose  may  be  based,  the  purpose  of  establishing  mankind 
on  earth.  Nineteenth-century  positivism  and  progressivism  perverted  this 
purpose  of  human  equality  when  they  set  out  to  demonstrate  what  cannot  be 
demonstrated,  namely,  that  men  arc  equal  by  nature  and  different  only  by 
history  and  circumstances,  so  that  they  can  be  equalized  not  by  rights,  but 
by  circumstances  and  education.  Nationalism  and  its  concept  of  a “national 
mission”  perverted  the  national  concept  of  mankind  as  a family  of  nations 
into  a hierarchical  structure  where  differences  of  history  and  organization 
were  misinterpreted  as  differences  between  men,  residing  in  natural  origin. 
Racism,  which  denied  the  common  origin  of  man  and  repudiated  the  common 
purpose  of  establishing  humanity,  introduced  the  concept  of  the  divine  origin 
of  one  people  as  contrasted  with  all  others,  thereby  covering  the  temporary 
and  changeable  product  of  human  endeavor  with  a pseudomystical  cloud  of 
divine  eternity  and  finality. 

This  finality  is  what  acts  as  the  common  denominator  between  the  pan- 
movements’  philosophy  and  race  concepts,  and  explains  their  inherent  af- 
finity in  theoretical  terms.  Politically,  it  is  not  important  whether  God  or 
nature  is  thought  to  be  the  origin  of  a people;  in  both  cases,  no  matter  how 
exalted  the  claim  for  one’s  own  people,  peoples  are  transformed  into  animal 
species  so  that  a Russian  appears  as  different  from  a German  as  a wolf  is 
from  a fox.  A “divine  people”  lives  in  a world  in  which  it  is  the  born  perse- 

30  This  was  already  recognized  by  the  Russian  Jesuit,  Prince  Ivan  S.  Gagarin,  in 
his  pamphlet  La  Russia  sera-t-elle  catholique?  (1856)  in  which  he  attacked  the 
Slavophiles  because  they  wish  to  establish  the  most  complete  religious,  political,  and 
national  uniformity.  In  their  foreign  policy,  they  wish  to  fuse  all  Orthodox  Christians 
of  whatever  nationality,  and  all  Slavs  of  whatever  religion,  in  a great  Slav  and  Orthodox 
empire.”  (Quoted  from  Hans  Kohn,  op.  cit.) 



cutor  of  all  other  weaker  species,  or  the  bom  victim  of  all  other  stronger 
species.  Only  the  rules  of  the  animal  kingdom  can  possibly  apply  to  its  polit- 
ical destinies. 

The  tribalism  of  the  pan-movements  with  its  concept  of  the  “divine  origin” 
of  one  people  owed  part  of  its  great  appeal  to  its  contempt  for  liberal  in- 
dividualism,40 the  ideal  of  mankind  and  the  dignity  of  man.  No  human  dig- 
nity is  left  if  the  individual  owes  his  value  only  to  the  fact  that  he  happens 
to  be  born  a German  or  a Russian;  but  there  is,  in  its  stead,  a new  coherence, 
a sense  of  mutual  reliability  among  all  members  of  the  people  which  indeed 
was  very  apt  to  assuage  the  rightful  apprehensions  of  modern  men  as  to  what 
might  happen  to  them  if,  isolated  individuals  in  an  atomized  society,  they 
were  not  protected  by  sheer  numbers  and  enforced  uniform  coherence. 
Similarly,  the  “belt  of  mixed  populations,”  more  exposed  than  other  sections 
of  Europe  to  the  storms  of  history  and  less  rooted  in  Western  tradition,  felt 
earlier  than  other  European  peoples  the  terror  of  the  ideal  of  humanity  and 
of  the  Judaeo-Christian  faith  in  the  common  origin  of  man.  They  did  not 
harbor  any  illusions  about  the  “noble  savage,”  because  they  knew  something 
of  the  potentialities  of  evil  without  research  into  the  habits  of  cannibals.  The 
more  peoples  know  about  one  another,  the  less  they  want  to  recognize  other 
peoples  as  their  equals,  the  more  they  recoil  from  the  ideal  of  humanity. 

The  appeal  of  tribal  isolation  and  master  race  ambitions  was  partly  due 
to  an  instinctive  feeling  that  mankind,  whether  a religious  or  humanistic 
ideal,  implies  a common  sharing  of  responsibility.41  The  shrinking  of  geo- 
graphic distances  made  this  a political  actuality  of  the  first  order.42  It  also 
made  idealistic  talk  about  mankind  and  the  dignity  of  man  an  affair  of  the 
past  simply  because  all  these  fine  and  dreamlike  notions,  with  their  time- 
honored  traditions,  suddenly  assumed  a terrifying  timeliness.  Even  insistence 
on  the  sinfulness  of  all  men,  of  course  absent  from  the  phraseology  of  the 
liberal  protagonists  of  “mankind,”  by  no  means  suffices  for  an  understand- 
ing of  the  fact — which  the  people  understood  only  too  well — that  the  idea 

40  “People  will  recognize  that  man  has  no  other  destination  in  this  world  but  to 
work  for  the  destruction  of  his  personality  and  its  replacement  through  a social  and 
unpersonal  existence.”  Chaadayev,  op.  cit.  Quoted  from  Ehrenberg,  op.  cit.,  p.  60. 

41  The  following  passage  in  Frymann,  op.  cit.,  p.  186,  is  characteristic:  “We  know 
our  own  people,  its  qualities  and  its  shortcomings — mankind  we  do  not  know  and  we 
refuse  to  care  or  get  enthusiastic  about  it.  Where  does  it  begin,  where  does  it  end, 
that  we  are  supposed  to  love  because  it  belongs  to  mankind  . . . ? Are  the  decadent 
or  half-bestial  Russian  peasant  of  the  mir,  the  Negro  of  East-Africa,  the  half-breed 
of  German  South-West  Africa,  or  the  unbearable  Jews  of  Galicia  and  Rumania  all 
members  of  mankind?  . . . One  can  believe  in  the  solidarity  of  the  Germanic  peo- 
ples— whoever  is  outside  this  sphere  does  not  matter  to  us.” 

42  It  was  this  shrinking  of  geographic  distances  that  found  an  expression  in  Fried- 
rich Naumann’s  Central  Europe:  “The  day  is  still  distant  when  there  shall  be  ‘one  fold 
and  one  shepherd,’  but  the  days  are  past  when  shepherds  without  number,  lesser  or 
greater,  drove  their  flocks  unrestrained  over  the  pastures  of  Europe.  The  spirit  of 
large-scale  industry  and  of  super-national  organisation  has  seized  politics.  People 
think,  as  Cecil  Rhodes  once  expressed  it,  ‘in  Continents.’  ” These  few  sentences  were 
quoted  in  innumerable  articles  and  pamphlets  of  the  time. 



of  humanity,  purged  of  all  sentimentality,  has  the  very  serious  consequence 
that  in  one  form  or  another  men  must  assume  responsibility  for  all  crimes 
committed  by  men,  and  that  eventually  all  nations  will  be  forced  to  answer 
for  the  evil  committed  by  all  others. 

Tribalism  and  racism  are  the  very  realistic,  if  very  destructive,  ways  of 
escaping  this  predicament  of  common  responsibility.  Their  metaphysical 
rootlessness,  which  matched  so  well  the  territorial  uprootedness  of  the  na- 
tionalities it  first  seized,  was  equally  well  suited  to  the  needs  of  the  shifting 
masses  of  modern  cities  and  was  therefore  grasped  at  once  by  totalitarian- 
ism; even  the  fanatical  adoption  by  the  Bolsheviks  of  the  greatest  antina- 
tional doctrine,  Marxism,  was  counteracted  and  Pan-Slav  propaganda  rein- 
troduced in  Soviet  Russia  because  of  the  tremendous  isolating  value  of  these 
theories  in  themselves.1'1 

It  is  true  that  the  system  of  rule  in  Austria-Hungary  and  Czarist  Russia 
served  as  a veritable  education  in  tribal  nationalism,  based  as  it  was  upon 
the  oppression  of  nationalities.  In  Russia  this  oppression  was  the  exclusive 
monopoly  of  the  bureaucracy  which  also  oppressed  the  Russian  people  with 
the  result  that  only  the  Russian  intelligentsia  became  Pan-Slav.  The  Dual 
Monarchy,  on  the  contrary,  dominated  its  troublesome  nationalities  by  giv- 
ing to  them  just  enough  freedom  to  oppress  other  nationalities,  with  the 
result  that  these  became  the  real  mass  basis  for  the  ideology  of  the  pan- 
movements.  The  secret  of  the  survival  of  the  House  of  Hapsburg  in  the 
nineteenth  century  lay  in  careful  balance  and  support  of  a supranational 
machinery  by  the  mutual  antagonism  and  exploitation  of  Czechs  by  Ger- 
mans, of  Slovaks  by  Hungarians,  of  Ruthenians  by  Poles,  and  so  on.  For 
all  of  them  it  became  a matter  of  course  that  one  might  achieve  nation- 
hood at  the  expense  of  the  others  and  that  one  would  gladly  be  deprived 
of  freedom  if  the  oppression  came  from  one’s  own  national  government. 

The  two  pan-movements  developed  without  any  help  from  the  Russian 
or  German  governments.  This  did  not  prevent  their  Austrian  adherents  from 
indulging  in  the  delights  of  high  treason  against  the  Austrian  government. 
It  was  this  possibility  of  educating  masses  in  the  spirit  of  high  treason  which 
provided  Austrian  pan-movements  with  the  sizable  popular  support  they 
always  lacked  in  Germany  and  Russia  proper.  It  was  as  much  easier  to 
induce  the  German  worker  to  attack  the  German  bourgeoisie  than  the  gov- 
ernment, as  it  was  easier  in  Russia  uto  arouse  the  peasants  against  squires 
than  against  the  Czar."  14  The  difference  in  the  attitudes  of  German  workers 

Very  interesting  in  ihis  respect  are  the  new  theories  of  Soviet  Russian  genetics. 
Inheritance  of  acquired  characteristics  clearly  means  that  populations  living  under 
unfavorable  conditions  pass  on  poorer  hereditary  endowment  and  vice  versa.  “In  a 
word,  we  should  have  innate  master  and  subject  races.”  See  H.  S.  Muller,  “The  Soviet 
Master  Race  Theory,”  in  New  Leader,  July  30,  1949. 

U,  Fedotov’s  "Russia  and  Freedom,”  in  The  Review  of  Politics , Vol.  VIII,  No.  I, 
January  1946,  is  a veritable  masterpiece  of  historical  writing;  it  gives  the  gist  of  the 
whole  of  Russian  history. 



and  Russian  peasants  were  surely  tremendous;  the  former  looked  upon  a 
not  too  beloved  monarch  as  the  symbol  of  national  unity,  and  the  latter 
considered  the  head  of  their  government  to  be  the  true  representative  of 
God  on  earth.  These  differences,  however,  mattered  less  than  the  fact  that 
neither  in  Russia  nor  in  Germany  was  the  government  so  weak  as  in  Austria, 
nor  had  its  authority  fallen  into  such  disrepute  that  the  pan-movements 
could  make  political  capital  out  of  revolutionary  unrest.  Only  in  Austria 
did  the  revolutionary  impetus  find  its  natural  outlet  in  the  pan-movements. 
The  (not  very  ably  carried  out)  device  of  divide  et  impera  did  little  to  di- 
minish the  centrifugal  tendencies  of  national  sentiments,  but  it  succeeded 
quite  well  in  inducing  superiority  complexes  and  a general  mood  of  dis- 

Hostility  to  the  state  as  an  institution  runs  through  the  theories  of  all  pan- 
movements. The  Slavophiles’  opposition  to  the  state  has  been  rightly  de- 
scribed as  “entirely  different  from  anything  to  be  found  in  the  system  of 
official  nationalism”; 45  the  state  by  its  very  nature  was  held  to  be  alien  to 
the  people.  Slav  superiority  was  felt  to  lie  in  the  Russian  people’s  indiffer- 
ence to  the  state,  in  their  keeping  themselves  as  a corpus  separatum  from 
their  own  government.  This  is  what  the  Slavophiles  meant  when  they  called 
the  Russians  a “stateless  people”  and  this  made  it  possible  for  these  “liber- 
als” to  reconcile  themselves  to  despotism;  it  was  in  accord  with  the  demand 
of  despotism  that  the  people  not  “interfere  with  state  power,”  that  is,  with 
the  absoluteness  of  that  power.46  The  Pan-Germans,  who  were  more  articu- 
late politically,  always  insisted  on  the  priority  of  national  over  state  interest 47 
and  usually  argued  that  “world  politics  transcends  the  framework  of  the 
state,”  that  the  only  permanent  factor  in  the  course  of  history  was  the 
people  and  not  states;  and  that  therefore  national  needs,  changing  with  cir- 
cumstances, should  determine,  at  all  times,  the  political  acts  of  the  state.48 
But  what  in  Germany  and  Russia  remained  only  high-sounding  phrases  up  to 
the  end  of  the  first  World  War,  had  a real  enough  aspect  in  the  Dual  Mon- 
archy whose  decay  generated  a permanent  spiteful  contempt  for  the  gov- 

It  would  be  a serious  error  to  assume  that  the  leaders  of  the  pan-move- 
ments were  reactionaries  or  “counter-revolutionaries.”  Though  as  a rule  not 
too  interested  in  social  questions,  they  never  made  the  mistake  of  siding  with 
capitalist  exploitation  and  most  of  them  had  belonged,  and  quite  a few 
continued  to  belong,  to  liberal,  progressive  parties.  It  is  quite  true,  in  a 

45  N.  Berdyaev,  op.  cit.,  p.  29. 

46  K.  S.  Aksakov  in  Ehrenberg,  op.  cit.,  p.  97. 

47  See  for  instance  Schoenerer’s  complaint  that  the  Austrian  “Verfassungspartei” 
still  subordinated  national  interests  to  state  interests  (Pichl,  op.  cit.,  I,  151).  See  also 
the  characteristic  passages  in  the  Pan-German  Graf  E.  Reventlow’s  Judas  Kampf  und 
Niederlage  in  Deutschland,  1937,  pp.  39  ff.  Reventlow  saw  National  Socialism  as  the 
realization  of  Pan-Germanism  because  of  its  refusal  to  “idolize”  the  state  which  is 
only  one  of  the  functions  of  folk  life. 

48  Ernst  Hasse,  Deutsche  Weltpolitik,  1897,  in  Alldeutsche  Flugschriften,  No.  5, 
and  Deutsche  Politik,  1.  Heft:  Das  deutsche  Reich  als  Nationalstaat,  1905,  p.  50. 



sense  that  the  Pan-German  League  “embodied  a real  attempt  at  popular 
control  in  foreign  affairs.  It  believed  firmly  in  the  efficiency  of  a strong  na- 
tionally minded  public  opinion  . . . and  initiating  national  policies  through 
force  of  popular  demand.”  48  Except  that  the  mob,  organized  in  the  pan- 
movements  and  inspired  by  race  ideologies,  was  not  at  all  the  same  people 
whose  revolutionary  actions  had  led  to  constitutional  government  and  whose 
true  representatives  at  that  time  could  be  found  only  in  the  workers’  move- 
ments, but  with  its  “enlarged  tribal  consciousness”  and  its  conspicuous  lack 
of  patriotism  resembled  much  rather  a “race.” 

Pan-Slavism,  in  contrast  to  Pan-Germanism,  was  formed  by  and  perme- 
ated the  whole  Russian  intelligentsia.  Much  less  developed  in  organizational 
form  and  much  less  consistent  in  political  programs,  it  maintained  for  a 
remarkably  long  time  a very  high  level  of  literary  sophistication  and  philo- 
sophical speculation.  While  Rozanov  speculated  about  the  mysterious  dif- 
ferences between  Jewish  and  Christian  sex  power  and  came  to  the  surpris- 
ing conclusion  that  the  Jews  are  “united  with  that  power,  Christians  being 
separated  from  it,”  50  the  leader  of  Austria’s  Pan-Germans  cheerfully  dis- 
covered devices  to  “attract  the  interest  of  the  little  man  by  propaganda  songs, 
post  cards,  Schoenercr  beer  mugs,  walking  sticks  and  matches.51  Yet  eventu- 
ally “Schelling  and  Hegel  were  discarded  and  natural  science  was  called  upon 
to  furnish  the  theoretical  ammunition”  by  the  Pan-Slavs  as  well.52 

Pan-Germanism,  founded  by  a single  man,  Georg  von  Schoenerer,  and 
chiefly  supported  by  German-Austrian  students,  spoke  from  the  beginning  a 
strikingly  vulgar  language,  destined  to  appeal  to  much  larger  and  different 
social  strata.  Schoenercr  was  consequently  also  “the  first  to  perceive  the 
possibilities  of  antisemitism  as  an  instrument  for  forcing  the  direction  of 
foreign  policy  and  disrupting  ...  the  internal  structure  of  the  state.”  53 
Some  of  the  reasons  for  the  suitability  of  the  Jewish  people  for  this  purpose 
arc  obvious:  their  very  prominent  position  with  respect  to  the  Hapsburg 
monarchy  together  with  the  fact  that  in  a multinational  country  they  were 
more  easily  recognized  as  a separate  nationality  than  in  nation-states  whose 
citizens,  at  least  in  theory,  were  of  homogeneous  stock.  This,  however,  while 
it  certainly  explains  the  violence  of  the  Austrian  brand  of  antisemitism  and 
shows  how  shrewd  a politician  Schoenerer  was  when  he  exploited  the  issue, 
docs  not  help  us  understand  the  central  ideological  role  of  antisemitism  in 
both  pan-movements. 

“1  nlargcd  tribal  consciousness”  as  the  emotional  motor  of  the  pan-move- 
ments was  fully  developed  before  antisemitism  became  their  central  and  cen- 
tralizing issue.  Pan-Slavism,  with  its  longer  and  more  respectable  history  of 

Wcrlhcimcr,  op.  cit.,  p.  209. 

50  Rozanov,  op.  cit.,  pp.  56-57. 

61  Oscar  Karbach,  op.  cit. 

Louis  Levine,  Pan-Slavism  and  European  Politics,  New  York,  1914,  describes  this 
change  from  ihc  older  Slavophile  generation  to  the  new  Pan-Slav  movement 

5*  Oscar  Karbach,  op.  cit. 



philosophic  speculation  and  a more  conspicuous  political  ineffectiveness, 
turned  antisemitic  only  in  the  last  decades  of  the  nineteenth  century;  Schoe- 
nerer  the  Pan-German  had  already  openly  announced  his  hostility  to  state 
institutions  when  many  Jews  were  still  members  of  his  party.54  In  Germany, 
where  the  Stoecker  movement  had  demonstrated  the  usefulness  of  anti- 
semitism as  a political  propaganda  weapon,  the  Pan-German  League  started 
with  a certain  antisemitic  tendency,  but  before  1918  it  never  went  so  far  as 
to  exclude  Jews  from  membership.55  The  Slavophiles’  occasional  antipathy 
to  Jews  turned  into  antisemitism  in  the  whole  Russian  intelligentsia  when, 
after  the  assassination  of  the  Czar  in  1881,  a wave  of  pogroms  organized 
by  the  government  brought  the  Jewish  question  into  the  focus  of  public  at- 

Schoenerer,  who  discovered  antisemitism  at  the  same  time,  proba